By Marcy Stamper
Twenty piles of slash from Ponderosa pines, remnants of a 50-acre fuels-reduction project on the Methow Valley school campus, are scheduled for prescribed burning between April 5 and 9, while the schools are on spring break.
The piles, on steep slopes, are the last remnants of a project conducted over the past two years by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR). DNR started with pruning in spring 2019 and followed up with thinning, more pruning and chipping in fall 2020, Jake Hardt, DNR’s local landowner assistance forester, said.
“While we used chipping equipment everywhere we could, there remain 20 4-by-4-foot Ponderosa pine slash piles that we couldn’t reach with the chipper,” Hardt said.
The prescribed burning is the final step in reducing wildfire risk on forested parts of the campus. The burning will be done by school district operations staff in partnership with a DNR crew.
Not only will the burning eliminate a fire risk, but it will also be used as pre-season training for wildland firefighters. “Safety and ensuring minimal smoke impact are our top priorities,” Hardt said.
Because pine slash can attract bark beetles, it has to be chipped or burned before the beetles begin their spring reproductive cycle, he said.
The prescribed burning will comply with state regulations, which restrict burning to weather that will minimize the risks of fire spread and smoke.
Nevertheless, some smoke is inevitable between April 5 and 9. The school district and DNR, along with their partner Fire Adapted Methow Valley, are providing advance notice so that sensitive individuals can prepare and protect themselves from adverse impacts of smoke. The number of days for the prescribed burns will depend on weather and permitting, Hardt said.
“We greatly appreciate our partnership with Fire Adapted Methow Valley and their commitment to ensuring that residents have advance notice and as much information as possible prior to a planned burn, and joining in concrete solutions to reduce unnecessary smoke as possible,” Clean Air Methow Director Liz Walker said.
“Smoke-ready” resources and information can be found on the Clean Air Methow website at www.cleanairmethow.org and at www.epa.gov/smoke-ready-toolbox-wildfires.
For more information, contact Fire Adapted Methow Valley at kat.heim.FAMV@gmail.com.