LAKEVIEW, Ore. — Residents of South Central Oregon will soon be seeing smoke and flame on the horizons. However, the fires beginning this spring will be those intentionally groomed by fire managers of the South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership.
"Prescribed fires" are used selectively, as a way of reducing hazardous fuels—such as dry grasses, small shrubs and trees—according to a statement from the Partnership. By burning up these fuels now, they say, the possibility of high-intensity or severe wildfires later in the season will be greatly reduced.
These controlled burns also help to improve the overall health of the forest and wildlife habitat, according to the Partnership. Fires serve to recycle nutrients back into the soil.
Certain conditions dictate when and where prescribed fires can be set. Warmer temperatures, reduced snow pack, adequate humidity and favorable winds for smoke management all determine how firefighters apply their flames.
The Oregon Department of Smoke Management Office is in charge of determining if the daily weather conditions are suitable for smoke dispersal. If weather conditions are approved, then firefighters ignite a test fire before expanding to the full prescribed burn—otherwise, the fire is postponed for another day, according to the Partnership statement.
“The snow and wet weather over the past couple months has been welcome, but now that things are warming up and drying out again we are hoping to resume active work to reduce the hazardous fuels which can contribute to larger wildfires during the summer fire season,” said Interagency Fire Management Officer Barry Shullanberger. “We’re still hoping for spring rains and for the snowpack we do have to hold up, but we are also looking forward to getting back out on the ground ahead of the summer fire season.”
Prescribed fire announcements will be posted at local ranger stations and federal offices prior to ignition. According to the Partnership statement, the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service are "committed to a safe and successful prescribed fire season for the public and employees."
The South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership consists of fire managers from the Fremont-Winema National Forest, the Bureau of Land Management Lakeview District, U.S. Fish ad Wildlife Service, and the Sheldon-Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
Lists of the areas in South Central Oregon where prescribed burns are planned can be found below.