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Smoke in the air: C.O. prescribed burn season begins

Plume south of Bend sparks concern; more to come

Prescribed burn season begins

BEND, Ore. - One of the first big prescribed burns of the season happened Monday, just off China Hat Road south of Bend. 

A 224-acre fire was ignited just after noon, with crews continuing to ignite the area until about 4 p.m.

The burn was originally planned to start at 11 a.m., but prescribed burns are a waiting game, until conditions are just right.

"We're looking at the wind," said Kassidy Kern, public affairs specialist for the Deschutes National Forest. "And this one, we have the opportunity to have the winds we need to move it up and out of Bend and minimize the impacts to our community, but also really remove those hazardous materials between the forest and homes to prevent the unfortunate event of catastrophic wildfire."

This is the first of many burns planned across Central Oregon in the next two months. Crews are hoping to get rid of potential wildfire fuel before the season actually hits.

As is often the case, the first big burn of the year in the populous Bend area prompted many calls to officials and to NewsChannel 21 from those worried an early-season wildfire had erupted. But that wasn't the case.

According to Kern, this fire season is a hard one to predict.

"So this season is going to be kind of an interesting season, because we did have so much snow pack, we have had so much rain." she said.  

"What means is if we get really great sunshine, we're going to have really tall grasses, and if we get a lot of heat, we're going to have a really fine, tall standing fuel, and it's going to be easy to ignite," Kern added.

Prescribed burn season can start as early as March, but with all the snowfall and rain this winter, burns were planned for later in the season, to give the ground time to dry out.

To keep the fire low to the ground, crews ignite strips of fire that they can carefully monitor, while another crew will watch to make sure the fire doesn't pass the holding line.

So whether it's wildfire or a prescribed burn, you can expect to see smoke in the air in the coming months.

But officials hope to keep smoke to a minimum.

"For people with asthma, for women or children, smoke can be very detrimental, so we want to make sure we minimize those," Kern said.

According to local asthma and allergy doctors, if you are especially sensitive to smoke, your best bet is to stay inside.

There is a burn planned for west Bend near Shevlin Park on Wednesday.  Crews will be rerouting people onto another trail.  

Here's a late Monday update from the Forest Service on upcoming burns:

Prescribed burning continues throughout the week across Central Oregon

BEND– As favorable weather and forest burning conditions persist across Central Oregon, fuels specialists across the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests plan to continue prescribed burning throughout the week. Fuels specialists plan to ignite 170 acres on Wednesday near the northwest edge of Shevlin Park as part of the West Bend Project. A 1,500-foot section of the Mrazek Trail will be rerouted onto portions of Forest Roads 4606 and 4609 during burning operations.

Over the past couple years, close to 700 acres of prescribed burning has been completed in the West Bend Project area. The West Bend Project is designed to restore forest health while reducing the risk of high severity wildfire to our local community. For information on the West Bend Project and forest restoration topics, such as prescribed burning, check out the Deschutes Collaborative Website: http://deschutescollaborativeforest.org/. To stay up-to-date on current trail closures in the West Bend Project area visit: https://www.fs.fed.us/r6/webmaps/deschutes/west-bend/public-information/.

Ignitions will continue across other portions of Central Oregon as well. Tuesday, Crescent Ranger District fuels specialists plan to burn 373 acres south of the town of Crescent and east of Forest Road 9768. These units may produce smoke that will be visible along Hwy 97 from the junction of Hwy 97 and Hwy 58 north to Crescent. Smoke may also continue to be visible from Monday’s ignition of 134 acres north of Davis Lake and Forest Road 4660. Tuesday, Ochoco National Forest fuels specialists are planning to light 143 acres of piles north of Antelope Reservoir.

On Wednesday, fuels specialists will continue burning in the Sisters area with a 91 acre unit near the Cold Springs cutoff from Hwy 20. No road or trail closures are expected for this burn.

If conditions remain favorable, ignitions are planned for a 180 acre understory burn in the west Maury Mountains on Thursday. No trail or road closures are anticipated for either burn.

Later in the week, conditions could also prove favorable for the ignition of 130 acres on the east side of Hwy 97 roughly 1.5 miles east of Sunriver. Road and trail closures are not expected.

Ignitions are generally planned to occur in the late morning to early afternoon timeframe. Communities located near the listed burn areas can expect to see residual smoke impacts following the ignitions of these units. Fire crews will continue to patrol and monitor all burns for several days after ignitions.

The use of prescribed fire in Central Oregon’s fire adapted ecosystems restores forests to healthier conditions, reduces and removes dense vegetation that contributes to high intensity wildfires and protects communities.

Prescribed burning will be completed by fire staff from the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests and Prineville BLM, as well as, students from the annual Central Oregon Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (TREX) program, an interagency collaboration to expand education surrounding prescribed fire.

For all prescribed burns, fuels specialists follow policies outlined in the Oregon Department of Forestry smoke management plan, which governs prescribed fires, and attempt to minimize impacts to visibility and public health.  Once ignited, units are monitored and patrolled until they are declared out. 

For more information, visit the interactive Deschutes National Forest website at https://www.fs.fed.us/r6/webmaps/deschutes/cofms-rxfire/ and follow us on Twitter @CentralORFire

For further information, you can consult this website and map.

https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/deschutes/home/?cid=stelprdb5297394


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