PORTLAND, Ore. — The U.S. Forest Service announced on Tuesday that it will stop all spring prescribed burns on national forest lands across Oregon and Washington due to coronavirus concerns.
“We care deeply about our communities across the region and didn’t want to risk introducing smoke from prescribed fire into communities that may be affected by COVID-19,” said John Giller, Director of Fire and Aviation Management for the Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service. “With this pause, we can better protect those who may also be in higher-risk groups for COVID-19, such as the elderly and those with underlying respiratory conditions.”
The agency said that frequent, low-intensity burns are essential to the health of northwest forests and nearby communities, but it is prioritizing employee and public safety with the pause on burning.
The Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region contains 17 National Forests, a National Scenic Area, a National Grassland, and two National Volcanic Monuments, all within the states of Oregon and Washington.
In southern Oregon, these areas include the Rogue-River Siskiyou National Forest, the Umpqua National Forest, and the Fremont-Winema National Forest — all the sites of large summer wildfires over the past several years.