Wildfire hazard abatement is one of the major reasons to use prescribed burning. Computer simulation, case studies, and analysis of the fire regime in the presence of active prescribed burning programs in forest and shrubland generally indicate that this fuel management tool facilitates fire suppression efforts by reducing the intensity, size and damage of wildfires. However, the conclusions that can be drawn from the above approaches are limited, highlighting the need for more properly designed experiments addressing this question. Fuel accumulation rate frequently limits prescribed fire effectiveness to a short post-treatment period (2–4 years). Optimisation of the spatial pattern of fire application is critical but has been poorly addressed by research, and practical management guidelines are lacking to initiate this. Furthermore, adequate treatment efforts in terms of fire protection are constrained by operational, social and ecological issues. The best results of prescribed fire application are likely to be attained in heterogeneous landscapes and in climates where the likelihood of extreme weather conditions is low. Conclusive statements concerning the hazard-reduction potential of prescribed fire are not easily generalised, and will ultimately depend on the overall efficiency of the entire fire management process.