EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) said Friday it would increase the number of controlled-burns in forest areas.

DEM is planning prescribed burns in Jamestown’s Dutch Island, Coventry’s Nicholas Farm Management Area, Exeter’s Pratt Farm-Arcadia Management Area, and Portsmouth’s Prudence Island.

DEM previously conducted a prescribed burn on Dutch Island in March 2022.

WATCH: DEM prescribed burn on Dutch Island (March 2022)

Prescribed or controlled-burns are used to reduce invasive plant species that can pose a threat to the local ecosystem, according to DEM. The burns also help slow the spread of pests and disease, restore native ecosystems, promote growth of native warm season habitats, and recycle crucial nutrients back into the ground.

“Prescribed fire is an important land management practice DEM uses to restore degraded forestlands, promote diverse wildlife habitats, and remove hazardous fuels to protect rural communities from wildfires,” said DEM Forest Fire Program Manager Pat MacMeekin. “We are working to return fire to the landscape where appropriate, to improve Rhode Island’s ecological systems and increase public safety.”

Because the burns are weather-dependent, DEM has no set dates for them yet. They will announce the controlled-burns two weeks in advance.

DEM said trained staff and newly-available resources are allowing the agency to expand the program.

Massachusetts and Connecticut have also increased their use of prescribed burns over the last years. Between 2018 and 2022, Massachusetts conducted 223 prescribed fires across 7,148 acres. In neighboring Connecticut, they prescribed 18 fires across 300 acres.