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Nevada City, Calif. October 26, 2017 – With the turn of the season comes the change in focus from wildfires to prescribed fires on the Tahoe National Forest. The Forest’s fire managers plan to implement more than 5,000 acres of prescribed fires from October through June using a combination of understory and pile burning. Prescribed fires are planned controlled burns used to reduce the overgrowth of vegetation in the forest and to mimic the natural occurrence of fire in the Sierras.

This year’s wildfires remind us of the importance of reducing the ever growing vegetation and fuel load in the forest and around our homes. Hazardous fuels reduction through prescribed burning is the most effective and cost efficient treatment available to the national forests. Prescribed fire directly affects intensity of the summer wildfires (fire behavior) and our suppression tactics by reducing the amount of fuel (vegetation) available to burn during a wildfire.

The goals of these prescribed fire projects are to re-establish natural ecosystems using fire, reduce the severity of future wildfires, and provide added protection for communities in the wildland urban interface. Prescribed fire helps to promote a diverse and more resilient forest, as well as improve habitat for wildlife. The Forest Service is also working to reduce fuels by thinning dense stands of trees and brush using mechanical thinning, mastication, and hand removal of vegetation throughout the Tahoe National Forest. All of these techniques are important in reducing the amount of forest fuels, thereby reducing the intensity of wildfires.

All prescribed fire projects are conducted in accordance with a specific, approved prescribed fire plan. These plans describe the specific conditions under which the prescribed burns will be conducted, including the weather, number of personnel, and ways to minimize smoke impacts. This information is used to decide when and where to burn. “We continue to give as much advance notice as possible before implementing a controlled burn; however, sometimes the weather gives us a short window of opportunity. During those times, information will be delivered on our Facebook and Twitter pages,” explained Jennifer Hinckley, Tahoe National Forest Prescribed Fire and Fuels Specialist.

The following is a list of prescribed fire projects currently planned for October through June:

American River Ranger District

  • Big Trees – 100 acres of *broadcast burning
  • North Divide – 200 acres of broadcast burning

Sierraville Ranger District

  • Brumby – 36 acres of broadcast burning
  • Outback – 20 acres of broadcast burning

Truckee Ranger District

  • Hwy 89 North near Prosser Hill Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Area – 1,000 acres of understory burning
  • Multiple Piled Material Operations:  Sagehen (300 acres); Serene Lakes (2 acres); Henness Pass Road north of Stampede Reservoir (5 acres); Hwy 89 North (2 acres)

Yuba River Ranger District

  • Madrone Springs – 303 acres of broadcast burning
  • Deer Creek – 134 acres of pile burning
  • Highway 20 – 800 acres broadcast burning

*Broadcast burning typically includes both understory and pile burning.

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Smoke from prescribed fire operations is normal. Residual smoke may continue for several days after a project area has been ignited. Burn areas are controlled and monitored. Smoke will settle in low lying areas at night and into the early morning hours. After the sun rises and temperatures increase, the smoke lifts out of the area. All prescribed fire smoke is monitored closely during the burn operations and for days after until there is no smoke. If necessary, action is taken to mitigate smoke concerns as they arise. Forest Service fire personnel monitor weather conditions closely prior to prescribed fire ignition and coordinate with state and local air pollution control districts. When forecasted conditions of wind speed and wind direction are within the prescribed fire plan conditions for a project, then the project is ignited. The fire personnel also conduct test burns before igniting a larger area to verify how effectively fuels are consumed and how smoke will travel.

“Our prescribed fire program is very important in our efforts to restore more natural ecosystems on the Tahoe National Forest,” said Hinckley. “Smoke is a product of prescribed fire. We take every opportunity to burn during weather patterns that carry smoke away from communities and roads. This summer’s wildfires are a reminder of the importance of fuels reduction and that smoke produced during a prescribed fire is much less intense and of shorter duration than that of a wildfire.”

For more information, contact Jennifer Hinckley, Tahoe National Forest Prescribed Fire and Fuels Specialist at 530-478-6270 or jenniferhinckley@fs.fed.us.

For more information on prescribed fire on the Tahoe National Forest, visit www.fs.usda.gov/tahoe and participate in the conversation at twitter.com/Tahoe_NF and www.facebook.com/TahoeNF.

If you would like to learn more about prescribed fire vs. wildfire, please visit www.smokeybear.com/prescribed-fires.asp.