Deschutes County 911 dispatchers were swamped with calls Tuesday about a tall smoke plume and were reassured it was only a planned, prescribed burn south of Bend.
Forest Service officials had advised Monday of plans for the 400-acre burn as part of the South Bend Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project located along China Hat Road (Forest Service Road 18) between the Deschutes National Forest boundary and Horse Butte, adjacent to the Woodside Ranch subdivision.
Late in the day, fire dispatchers said only about half of the area had been burned, so the project likely will continue later this week -- but not Wednesday, as the winds could blow smoke into town.
The goal of the project is to reduce fuels adjacent to the subdivision and the urban interface with Bend, which will create a defensible space and reintroduce fire back into the ecosystem, officials said.
Meanwhile, over the next two weeks, Ochoco National Forest fuels specialists will use prescribed fire to burn approximately 1,575 acres across the Ochoco National Forest.
The East Maury Jackpot burning project is located approximately 12-15 miles SE of Post. The areas to be burned cover approximately 1,000 acres, and are spread out across the east side of the Maury Mountains.
Ignitions will take place over the next couple weeks as weather allows. Fuels specialists plan to improve wildlife habitat and range conditions while reducing hazardous fuels. Burning will also reduce fuel loadings associated with prior mechanical treatments. Smoke impacts may occur on local forest roads for short durations.
The Zane burning project is located approximately 15 miles south of Mitchell, and east of Big Summit Prairie. Fuels Specialists plan to burn approximately 500 acres to reduce hazardous fuels and to introduce fire back into the Ponderosa pine ecosystem. Ignition is planned 4/25/13, dependent on weather conditions. Forest Road 30 may be impacted with smoke and fire traffic.
The Squirrel Ridge project, located approximately 15 miles NE of Prineville, in the Mill Creek drainage, is nearly completed. This project will improve wildlife habitat, improve range conditions, and reduce hazardous fuels. Ignition on the remaining 75 acres of this project was scheduled for Wednesday.
No road closures are anticipated with these projects. However, if smoke drifts on to local roads, motorists should slow down, turn on headlights, and proceed with care. Once ignited, projects are monitored by firefighters until they are declared out.
Fuels specialists will follow policies outlined in the Oregon Department of Forestry smoke management plan, which governs prescribed burns, and attempts to minimize impacts to visibility and public health. For more information, visit the Ochoco/Deschutes website at http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/centraloregon/fire/