Starting this month, fire managers plan to begin prescribed burning on 5,300 acres of U.S. Forest Service land on the east slope of the Cascades, with almost half of the total amount of acreage in the Methow Valley Ranger District.
Fewer acres may be burned if conditions are not favorable, said Rob Allen, forest fire staff officer with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
Favorable conditions include correct temperature, wind, fuel moisture and ventilation for smoke. When these criteria are met, firefighters implement, monitor, and patrol each burn to ensure it meets forest health and public safety goals including air quality.
“Clean air matters to all of us. We work closely with the Weather Service and state agencies to burn on days that best disperse smoke away from communities,” Allen said.
“Prescribed fire is one of the best tools we have to stop living in summer after summer of dense smoke. While it may seem counter-intuitive, what we need in eastern Washington is more fire, not less,” Allen said. “In other words, we’re playing offense — taking on the long-term wildfire issue.”
During the spring of 2018, prescribed fires resulted in no smoke intrusions in the communities of Twisp, Chelan or Wenatchee, said Holly Krake, public information officer with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
In contrast, Krake said, during the summer of 2018, wildfires resulted 30 days of air quality that was “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” or worse for the community of Twisp, 24 days for Chelan, and 14 days for Wenatchee.
Approximately 2,675 acres are proposed for prescribed burning in the Methow Valley Ranger District. They are identified by the Forest Service as: Ortell, 200 acres, 11 miles north-northwest of Winthrop; Deer, 413 acres, 10 miles north-northwest of Winthrop; Lucky, 56 acres, 6 miles northwest of Winthrop; Goat, 1,070 acres, 2 miles southeast of Mazama; and Upper Rendezvous, 936 acres, 8 miles southeast of Mazama.
Frequent, low-intensity fire is essential for healthy forests and better-protected communities, Krake said. Prescribed fire lowers fuel loads in the forest and reduces the risk of future high-intensity wildfires – and related dense smoke.
Prescribed fire is also planned this fall in the Chelan, Cle Elum, Entiat, Naches, Tonasket and Wenatchee ranger districts.
For more information on smoke and public health, visit wasmoke.blogspot.com
Fall 2018 priority prescribed fire
Chelan Ranger District
Grouse Mountain, 219 acres 18, miles northwest of Chelan
Forest Mountain, 158 acres, 11 miles west of Chelan
Cle Elum Ranger District:
Liberty, 100 acres, 17 miles northeast of Cle Elum
Orion, 345 acres, 16 miles northeast of Cle Elum
Teanaway, 300 acres, 14 miles north of Cle Elum
Entiat Ranger District
Dinkleman, 217 acres, 6 miles west of Entiat
Entiat Ridge, 142 acres, 8 miles southwest of Entiat
Dill, 74 acres, 16 miles northeast of Entiat
Naches Ranger District
Angel, 100 acres, 30 miles west of Yakima
Canteen, 300 acres, 30 miles west of Yakima
Tonasket Ranger District
Mutton, 26 acres, 5 miles northwest of Conconully
Bailey, 200 acres, 9 miles southeast of Tonasket
Frosted, 185 acres, 23 miles southeast of Tonasket
Wenatchee River Ranger District
Fishpole, 160 acres, 1 mile southwest of Fish Lake
Natapoc, 140 acres, 1-2 miles west of Plain