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Willamette prepares for spring prescribed burning

Fire managers make Rx burn plans, monitor conditions

Fire management officials for the Willamette National Forest expect to begin prescribed burning across approximately 500 acres in multiple Ranger Districts within the next few weeks, depending on weather, ground, and vegetation conditions.

Timing is critical when planning for prescribed burns. Spring in Oregon gives fire managers the vegetation moisture and other conditions needed to fit their specific objectives, which are often unique to each project and limited to a 24-hour permit window. For this reason, public notice of specific burn times may only come 24 hours in advance, and frequently the morning of the burn.

The safety of firefighters and the public is the most important factor considered when planning prescribed fires. Before conducting a prescribed burn, extensive planning takes place to establish proper parameters, such as weather, fuel conditions, smoke dispersion, staffing and other agency coordination. Prescribed burns will only be implemented if all parameters are in accordance with the developed burn plans.

Prescribed burning is a valuable tool to improve forest health and increase resiliency to wildfire. It involves igniting a controlled, low-intensity fire to consume undergrowth and fire fuels under specific conditions of temperature, wind, and humidity. This limits fire behavior and reduces the likelihood of heavy smoke impacting nearby communities. The benefits of treating these fuels include reducing the severity of future wildfires near communities, increasing firefighter safety in initial and extended response, and maintaining overall healthy forests.

To implement planned Rx burns, crews will lay out fire hose around the unit. Firefighters then ignite the unit in a strategic pattern, determined by slope and wind direction, while other crew members will patrol the fire’s edge on foot and spray down fuels outside the unit with water to ensure the fire stays contained within the burn area. Fire personnel will continue to patrol and monitor burned areas until the fire is declared out.

Fire managers also work with the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) to ensure favorable smoke management conditions, and to limit smoke impacts to roads and communities. Specific information is needed prior to each burn day as fuels specialists verify weather conditions are conducive to burning, and smoke clearance is granted.

The public is urged to be cautious and expect increased fire equipment on Forest roads.

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