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Fall Prescribed Burning Begins on the Tahoe National Forest


By: Ann Westling, Tahoe National Forest

October 26, 2012 - The Truckee Ranger District will begin fall prescribed burning in the Truckee area as weather permits. The timing of burning will depend on favorable weather conditions and may continue periodically until significant snow accumulates. 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 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.

Weather is the most critical factor in determining when a prescribed burn can begin. 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. "We also 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. The term "prescribed fire" comes from the very stringent prescriptions that have to be met before a burn can be initiated," explained Ferguson.

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, near Tahoe Timber Trails, Henness Pass Road, Klondike Flat and Serene Lakes. Underburning is planned near Klondike Flat, on Sawtooth Ridge (south of Truckee, above Hwy 89 South), and near Stampede and Boca Reservoirs. Smoke will 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. Not all smoke can be avoided, however. At times smoke will settle into low areas and drainages during the evenings and last into the next morning until daytime heating increases air movement and smoke dispersal.

"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."

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.

There are several ways to obtain information on prescribed fire in the Truckee area. For general information on prescribed fire you can go to the Tahoe National Forest web-site at http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/tahoe/home. If you would like more up to date prescribed fire information, the Truckee Ranger District has a pre-burn notification email list. If you wish to be placed on this 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.

The Sierraville Ranger District is preparing for the upcoming fall/winter prescribed burn season which may begin in the next few weeks if conditions become favorable. Prescribed fire is only implemented when conditions are favorable for meeting objectives and minimizing negative impacts. "We are currently monitoring temperature, humidity, winds, and fuel moisture conditions to evaluate when our prescribed burns will be conducted. Smoke management plans developed in accordance with California Air Resources Board regulations are in place, and we will be working with the local air quality districts to minimize impacts to local communities," stated Ruby Burks, District Fuels Officer.

The District is currently planning for prescribed fire activities that include first and second entry underburns and pile burning. Burns are designed to reduce accumulated fuels in order to reduce the intensity of potential wildland fires if they were to occur in the treated areas. Current underburn projects are planned in the Lewis Mill/Smithneck Road area and the Little Truckee Summit area. Pile burning projects are planned in the Sierraville and Loyalton Pines areas as well as other areas throughout the District.

If you have any questions about our prescribed burn program for this fall and winter please contact the District Fuels Officer, Ruby Burks, at the Sierraville Ranger District Office, (530) 994-3401.


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