An estimated 1,000 and 4,000 acres are planned for burning this spring, but that figure could increase if good burn conditions persist. The actual amount of burning accomplished will be determined by weather, fuels conditions, and forecasted smoke dispersion.
In many areas, prescribed burning is the last of a series of treatments for vegetation management and fuel reduction projects. Burning often follows harvest or other thinning activities that remove some trees while retaining the largest, healthiest trees of the most fire-resistant species, such as ponderosa pine and western larch. Smaller trees (ladder fuels) are removed leaving stands less susceptible to crown fires. Prescribed burning completes the treatment process by consuming much of the accumulated surface fuel.
Prescribed burning is conducted using federal, state and local agency employees and contracted personnel and equipment. Crews, engines, dozers, and helicopters, typical resources used on a prescribed burn, monitor and maintain the burn within the fireline perimeter.
Areas to be burned are often prepared by constructing a fire line around them and using existing roads and trails as fire breaks. Firing or ignition of the area will be accomplished by ground personnel utilizing drip torches and, on larger projects, by a helicopter mounted firing devices. Each prescribed burn has an organized command structure including a burn boss, firing boss, and a holding boss that provides and implements management of the burn.
Prescribed burning is not without impacts. Managing the smoke produced by prescribed burns is a significant challenge and the hardest to forecast in the implementation planning process. Managers work closely with the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Washington Department of Natural Resource in accordance with their smoke management plans to determine when, where, and how much can be burned on a daily basis. Unfavorable weather conditions, especially those leading to an adverse smoke management forecast, are the primary reason a prescribed burn would be postponed.
For more information concerning the Umatilla National Forest Prescribed Burning program, contact Chris Johnson, Deputy Fire Staff Officer/Fuels Program Manager, in Pendleton at (541) 278-3704 or one of the following Ranger District contacts:
Tara Mackleit Pomeroy Ranger District (509) 843-4676
Tyson Albrecht Walla Walla Ranger District (509) 522-6283
Andrew Stinchfield North Fork John Day Ranger District (541) 427-5397
Dale Boyd Heppner Ranger District (541) 676-9187