Smoke may be visible in the Methow Valley and other areas of Okanogan County in coming weeks as crews burn slash piles from fuel reduction projects on national forest lands.
Firefighters have been burning hand piles in the Cub Creek and Loup Loup Summit areas. Those areas will be patrolled over the next several weeks.
Throughout the fall, crews will take advantage of favorable conditions to burn piles in the Cub Creek and Chewuch River areas, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Underburning may also take place in the Fawn Creek and Eightmile Creek drainages.
Areas to be burned include debris created by thinning projects, as well as areas of debris that have accumulated naturally in the absence of fire.
“Thinning and prescribed burning are important forest restoration tools in reducing the size and intensity wildfires,” said Assistant Fire Management Officer Shawn Plank.
“We’ve seen first-hand the impact that restoration treatment areas have had on the spread of wildfires over the past two summers. In areas where treatment has occurred, fire behavior is altered and firefighters have opportunities to safely and effectively engage in active fire suppression.
“Recently treated areas burned at a much lower intensity during this summer’s fires; and those areas will recover faster,” said Plank, who works in the Tonasket Ranger District.
Burning this fall will only take place when conditions such as humidity, wind direction, speed, and fuel moistures make it safe and effective to burn, and when approval for burning has been granted by Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
DNR regulates smoke management and must approve all controlled burns on national forests within Washington. Even after receiving burn approval, fire specialists continuously coordinate with state air quality managers about the best timing and locations for conducting prescribed burning.
Prescribed burning is part of the comprehensive Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Restoration Strategy. Forest Service managers began implementing the strategy in 1999 to reduce the threat of uncharacteristically severe fires and bring resiliency to unhealthy forest ecosystems.
Individuals interested in getting involved or learning more about the prescribed burning program are encouraged to contact Meg Trebon, assistant fire management officer for fuels on the Methow Valley Ranger Districts at (509) 996-4032. Ignition updates are also posted on twitter at www.twitter.com/OkaWenNF.