Rain helps a lot, but also delays prescribed burn

Ochoco Natl. Forest waits a day for drier fuels

Ochoco National Forest prescribed...

PRINEVILLE, Ore. - Forest officials have pushed back the start of a 3,800-acre prescribed burn in the Ochoco National Forest due to wet fuel from Tuesday to Wednesday.

Officials had to wait an extra day for the fuels to dry out before a burn can happen, but they and firefighters alike are relieved by the rain Central Oregon received over the past week. In fact, it just might mark the end of the most expensive fire season on record.

"What the moisture really did is take us from an active fire season into pretty much the postseason," Ochoco National Forest Information Officer Patrick Lair said Tuesday. "It put a lot of rain up in the high country, put snow on parts of the fires."

Right now is a very important time of year for fire prevention, and it doesn't last long.

"The windows of opportunity are pretty narrow," Lair said. "There's a little bit of time in the spring, there's a little bit of time in the fall. Summers are too hot and dry -- winters, obviously, you can't burn."

So they are taking the opportunity to get in as much fire prevention as they can.

Read the forest's news release below:

Fire managers on the Ochoco National Forest will take advantage of recent moisture to start working on the Upper Beaver prescribed burn this week on the Paulina Ranger District, a project to reduce hazardous fuels and improve habitat across 3,800 acres just south of Black Canyon Wilderness.

Ignitions were expected to begin Tuesday morning and last two to three days, with smoke lingering in the area for the rest of the week.

But Forest Service spokesman Patrick Lair said Tuesday that ignitions were rescheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. "Fuels are a little on the wet side, so fire managers are giving them another day to dry," he said.

“We realize most people are just now breathing a sigh of relief that fire season is winding down,” said Paulina District Ranger Gary Asbridge. “But this is our opportunity to reduce hazardous fuels and improve forest health during a time of our choosing, rather than waiting for a lightning strike or an escaped campfire to burn those fuels during the summer.”

Objectives for the burn are to improve natural resources within the unit by reducing hazardous fuels and improving big game habitat while restoring fire to a fire-adapted ponderosa pine ecosystem. The unit is just west of the 2015 Corner Creek Fire that burned nearly 30,000 acres.

The prescribed burn is planned to fall in between archery and rifle deer hunting seasons, in order to impact hunters as little as possible. Smoke will be visible from Paulina, 13 miles to the southeast, and from Mud Springs and Frazier Campgrounds, but is not expected to close any roads to motorized traffic.

This is a continuation of a project started last year. Firefighters completed blacklines around the unit last October and then heavy precipitation prevented them from actually starting any interior ignitions. This week, fire managers plan to use aerial ignitions delivered from a helicopter to create low-intensity interior burns while strengthening control lines around the burn to prevent it from moving outside the planned unit.

Prescribed burning is part of a Forest Service program to remove hazardous fuels in order to reduce the potential for high-intensity uncharacteristic fire, while restoring low-intensity fire to a fire-adapted ecosystem and improving range and forest health.

Prescribed burning is a proactive approach to fire management, reintroducing fire in a planned, low-intensity manner that benefits the resources, instead of waiting for an unplanned ignition, such as lightning, to start a wildfire that requires an expensive suppression response and can burn with destructive intensity.

The Forest Service appreciates public tolerance of increased smoke and vehicle traffic in support of these restoration goals.

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