If you see smoke columns rising from the forest in the next few months, it’s likely a prescribed burn being conducted by the Deschutes National Forest.
Sisters Ranger District firefighters were out on Thursday igniting around 90 acres 3 miles south east of Sisters on National Forest System lands.
“Prescribed fire is a critical tool that we use to reduce the risk of wildfire to our communities and to our landscape,” Deschutes National Forest Public Affairs Specialist Jaimie Olle said.
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Sisters Ranger District firefighters are conducting these burns with support from Central Oregon TREX Prescribed Fire Training participants.
“We use that as a tool to get rid of the ladder fuels that should a wildfire start in an area like this during the heat of summer, our firefighters have a much better chance of success of being able to catch that fire and keep our community safe,” Olle said.
Ladder fuels consist of ground vegetation, debris and low hanging branches that could help a fire spread.
As for the burn’s impact on air quality, the Oregon Department of Forestry Smoke Forecasters approve each burn as long as the conditions are right.
“They’re taking into consideration everything from wind, weather and whether there’s a potential for that smoke to lift up and hopefully away from communities,” Olle said. “So every single day, we’re sending them our measurements of things that we’re seeing on the ground, and they’re determining whether it’s a good day to burn.”
The right conditions for a prescribed burn depend on the dryness of the area.
“Enough moisture in the fuels so the vegetation, again those ladder fuels, that carry fire up into the crown, and they want those fuels to be receptive enough to fire so that we decrease them, but keep it wet enough that we’re not creating that high intensity wildfire atmosphere,” Olle said.
Due to the “healthy” snowpack this year, fire season is expected to kick it up a notch around July.
You can get the latest Central Oregon fire information here.