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Expect crews to begin burning

Setting firesControlled fires will happen from now through June

MCKENZIE BRIDGE: The arrival of spring means fire personnel are busy preparing for controlled burns on the McKenzie River Ranger District. This season, several controlled burns that total 182 acres will be ignited near Blue River Reservoir, east of Smith Reservoir, and near Frissell Crossing campground on Forest Service Road 19.

Officials say that residential areas, development and public use within the forest mean natural wildfires are not generally allowed to burn and are quickly suppressed. To safely return fire to the ecosystem, fire managers use controlled burns to reduce the risk of high severity wildfires and enhance habitat in the forest. Another benefit of this work is to help train fire crews for the upcoming fire season; the work is similar to responding to a wildfire and readies them to safely and successfully manage wildfires across the nation.

In preparation for the burns, crews are building and clearing fire lines, laying out hoses around the units and checking fuel moistures and weather forecasts regularly for a perfect window of opportunity. Once the temperature, humidity, wind and fuel moistures align, fire crews ignite the specific burn areas. One group of firefighters will light the unit in a strategic pattern determined by slope and wind direction. Another group patrols the fire line on foot and sprays down fuels outside the unit with water to ensure the fire stays contained within the burn area. After the smoke clears, crews spend up to a week putting out smokes in the unit to make sure it is completely out.

Timing is critical when planning for controlled burns, mainly because of the weather conditions required to have a successful burn. Springtime gives fire managers the variable weather needed to fit their specific objectives. For this reason, public notice of specific burn times may only come with a day or less notice. These burns may take place anytime between now through June.

A column of smoke will be noticeable from certain vantage points on the day of each burn, but smoke should rise and dissipate quickly. Some smoke may linger, especially in the evenings following a burn as temperatures cool and cause settling in the valley bottoms.

“Please be cautious when traveling on forest roads during this time,” said Brenda Hallmark, Assistant Fire Manager - Fuels. “We’ll be driving these roads frequently, not only to carry water to the burn, but also to check the status of the burn for a few weeks after. Expect traffic around every corner.”

If you have any questions or comments about these activities, please contact Brenda Hallmark at [email protected], 541-822-7244. If you want to receive notifications about these burns, follow us on twitter @willamettenf.


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