Malheur National Forest fire officials are monitoring conditions on the forest and preparing to implement the fall prescribed fire program.
Prescribed fires, also known as controlled burns, refer to the planned and controlled use of fire by a team of highly skilled fire managers under specific conditions, according to a press release. During the late summer and early fall months, the forest has a number of planning units, ranging in size from 150 acres up to 4,000 acres, scheduled for prescribed fire operations.
Prescribed fires are conducted within specific parameters including temperature, relative humidity, fuel moisture and wind speed. Implementation is dependent upon these and other necessary conditions. Should conditions allow, crews may start operations on some smaller units as early as, Friday, Sept. 13.
Fall burning will build upon efforts in the spring when the forest safely and successfully accomplished prescribed fire operations on approximately 2,600 acres. Spring operations reduced surface fuels, increased height of some canopy, reduced small tree densities and helped promote fire resilient trees, thereby improving our ability to protect communities from wildfire. Additionally, these prescribed fires improve wildlife habitat, promote long-term ecosystem integrity and sustainability by reducing the risk of high-severity wildland fire.
Prescribed fire is an important component of natural resource management and part of the comprehensive fire management program on the Malheur National Forest. Each of these prescribed burn operations represents many months of planning and preparation. Prescribed burns are designed to both reduce the risk of larger, catastrophic wildfires as well to restore overall health of the National Forest System lands. Fire is an essential, natural process, having shaped the landscape for thousands of years, releasing and recycling nutrients from vegetation, duff and soil layers, improving the overall health of plants and animals.
Science over the last several decades has shed a great deal of light on the essential role that these low-intensity fires play in a fire-dependent forest like the Malheur National Forest. Prescribed fire, when used strategically and repeatedly across larger areas, helps sustain healthy forest ecosystems, reduces the risk of out-of-control fires, reduces the severity of future wildfires when they do occur and keeps our communities and firefighters safer.
To ensure public and firefighter safety, roads, trails and areas may need to close temporarily as firefighter operations are taking place. Smoky conditions may also reduce visibility to a level that would require additional temporary closures. During prescribed fire operations, there is potential for impacts to camping and recreational activities. Visitors are advised to plan ahead, for their safety they should not camp in or near an area of prescribed fire activity.
As dates for individual units are scheduled and conditions are met, announcements will be released, updates will also be posted to Inciweb at: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6299 and the Malheur National Forest Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MalheurNationalForest. Additional information regarding prescribed burning on the Malheur National Forest is available by viewing the Prescribed Fire Activity interactive map at: http://arcg.is/2wUZIil.
With the potential for smoke to settle in certain areas during active operations, the public can monitor the smoke and air quality in our area and across the state by visiting, http://oregonsmoke.blogspot.com.
For further information on the Malheur National Forest, visit us at fs.usda.gov/malheur or call 541-575-3000.