If weather conditions are favorable, the U.S. Forest Service may begin prescribed burning in the next two weeks on south-facing slopes in the Fawn Creek and Eightmile Creek drainages near Winthrop, and later this spring in the Burge Mountain area east of Havillah.

Areas planned for either spring or fall burning are shown on a map in the Forest Services’ 2016 Burn Plan. The brochure also describes the reasons for treatment in each of the areas. It was mailed to area residents in March and is available at Forest Service offices throughout the county.

Underburning planned for this spring will reduce slash created by forest thinning, along with natural accumulations of needles and branches, the Forest Service said in a press release. Removing debris reduces the risk of high intensity, or “catastrophic,” wildfire, the Forest Service said.

“Over the past 13 years and especially over the last two summers, I’ve heard several firefighters comment on how treated areas helped provide safer options for crews and reduced fire severity,” said Meg Trebon, assistant fire manager for fuels on the Methow Valley Ranger District. “In some cases, our treatment units created key anchor points that kept fires from growing larger or burning more severely. This translates to better survival of vegetation, fewer severely burned acres, less impacts to habitat, and less smoke in the air during wildfires.”

“Using prescribed fire means creating smoke and requires us to pay close attention to potential impacts to the air,” Trebon added. “Ignitions usually occur over one day but in the case of some larger treatment areas, we may request a two-day burn period. This gives us time to carefully bring fire down steep slopes while reducing risks to staff, lowering the chance for escape, and improving tree survival. In the days leading up to ignition, we monitor weather forecasts carefully to find the best conditions that will disperse smoke as rapidly as possible.”

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regulates smoke management and must approve all controlled burns on national forests within the state. Even when DNR staff approve ignition, local district staff may decide against burning if conditions are unfavorable.

Methow Valley’s 24 hour prescribed burning information line is 996-4040.