The current spring-like weather is opening a window for fire managers on the Fremont-Winema National Forest, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Lakeview District and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Sheldon-Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complexes to get an early start on spring prescribed burning.
While conditions allow, including warmer temperatures, reduced snow pack, increased humidity and favorable winds for smoke management, firefighters will be shifting from pile burning to applying fire to the forest floor.
Area residents and visitors may notice smoke on public lands in various areas during the next few months as part of the continued commitment to protect communities and natural resources from wildfires.
“We have a rare opportunity right now to make progress on fuel reduction projects, including prescribed burning,” said Interagency Fire Management Officer Barry Shullanberger. “The hope is winter conditions will return in the coming weeks to help build the snowpack, but in the meantime we want to apply fire to the landscape to reduce hazardous fuels which can contribute to larger wildfires during the summer fire season.”
Prescribed burns are a proactive tool used to achieve a number of purposes, including the reduction of hazardous fuels – which can be grasses, small shrubs and trees. Reducing hazardous fuels helps to decrease the threat of high-intensity, severe wildfires, improve forest heath and wildlife habitat and recycle nutrients into the soil.
Prescribed burning only occurs on days when the Oregon Department of Forestry Smoke Management Office indicates there are suitable weather conditions for smoke dispersal. Following that approval, if overall and humidity conditions are favorable, firefighters ignite a test fire before moving forwards with the prescribed burn. If the test fire indicates conditions are not within range, the prescribed burn will be postponed until conditions improve. Burning operations are monitored and patrolled frequently to ensure public safety.
Prescribed burning announcements will be placed at local ranger stations and federal offices prior to ignition. Forest Service, BLM and USFWS employees are committed to a safe and successful prescribed burning season for both the public and employees.
Areas planned for treatment during the Spring 2018 Prescribed Burning Season include: