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Spring Prescribed Burning Begins on the Truckee Ranger District


By: Ann Westling, Tahoe National Forest

Truckee April 18, 2012 - The Truckee Ranger District will begin spring prescribed burning in the Truckee area as weather permits. The timing of burning will depend on favorable weather conditions. The prescribed burns will be implemented by fire management professionals. "We are planning to initiate these prescribed burns to reduce the threat of wildfires especially adjacent to urban development," stated Linda Ferguson, District Fuels Management Officer. Prescribed fire can play a crucial role in removing some of the heavy forest vegetation which fuels wildfire. "By burning the forest vegetation and debris in the fall or spring, we can have many of the ecosystem benefits of fire while lessening the intensity of future wildfires," continued Ferguson.

The term "prescribed fire" comes from the very stringent prescriptions that have to be met before a burn can be initiated. Weather is the most critical factor in determining when a prescribed burn can begin. Current and predicted temperature, humidity, fuel moisture, and wind conditions are monitored for the right burning conditions. In addition to weather factors, wildlife needs, soil conditions, tree survival, sensitive plants, and fire suppression activities are all considered in the timing of prescribed burns. A benefit of the prescribed burning will be reduced intensity of future wildland fires in the treated areas. These areas may also provide firefighters with safe locations to control wildfires in the future.

The forests of the Sierra Nevada mountains are fire dependent ecosystems. Natural fire has been suppressed for over 100 years within these systems. Returning low intensity fire to these systems with prescribed fire will reduce forest fuels such as litter, shrubs and small trees. Reintroduction of prescribed fire also releases nutrients into the soil and creates openings within the forest that provide habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals. Prescribed fire is an indispensable management tool capable of doing much of the work to restore ecological processes.

Some of these burns are located in more remote areas of the forest, while some are near communities. Within the Truckee Ranger District of the Tahoe National Forest, pile burning is planned along Alder Creek Road, at Tahoe Timber Trails, and along Highway 89 North. Underburning is planned near Klondike Flats, on Sawtooth Ridge, and near Stampede and Boca Reservoirs. Smoke may be visible in these areas. Forest Service fuels management personnel work closely with the California Air Resources Board and the local air quality management districts to minimize smoke impacts to communities. "We strive for smoke distribution patterns that will have the least impact on local communities. By burning small areas while in prescription, there will be less smoke and for a shorter duration than if the area would burn in an intense wildfire" explained Ferguson. Not all smoke can be avoided; at times smoke may settle into drainages during the evenings and mornings until daytime heating increases air movement and smoke dispersal.

In addition to prescribed fire, we are working to reduce fuels by thinning dense stands of trees and cutting back or removing brush and smaller trees using mechanical thinning, mastication, and hand removal of vegetation throughout the Forest. All of these techniques are important in reducing the amount of forest fuels. Every project is thoroughly analyzed through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.

The Truckee Ranger District has a pre-burn notification email list. "We ask that anyone that needs to be notified of a burn due to potential smoke impacts would contact us ahead of time so that we can notify them when a day of burning is beginning," stated Ferguson. "We recognize that prescribed burns may be a concern due to the smoke and the potential for escape. These are of concern to us as well and we work very hard to minimize the possibility of both. Extensive preparation goes into the planning and implementation of a prescribed burn." If you wish to be placed on the pre-burn notification list, or if you would like more information on the fuel reduction efforts on the Truckee Ranger District, please contact Linda Ferguson, District Fuels Management Officer, Truckee Ranger District (530) 587-3558.


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