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Truckee, Calif. October 23, 2017 – The Truckee Ranger District on the Tahoe National Forest will conduct prescribed fires this fall and winter to reduce build-up of hazardous fuels and to move towards restoring forest ecosystems. This past fire season is a good reminder of the importance of prescribed fire, especially in our fire-dependent landscape. Hazardous fuels reduction, through prescribed burning, is the most effective and cost-efficient treatment available to directly affect fire behavior and suppression success.

Fall and winter bring precipitation and cooler temperatures that are ideal for prescribed fire operations. Planned projects include low-to-moderate intensity understory burns of vegetation on the forest floor and burning piles of stacked woody material.

The goals of these 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.

All prescribed fire projects are conducted in accordance with a specific, approved prescribed fire burn plan. Burn plans describe the specific conditions under which burns will be conducted, including the weather, number of personnel, and opportunities to minimize smoke impacts.  This information is used to decide when and where to burn. “We do our best to give as much advance notice as possible before burning; however, some operations may be conducted on short notice,” said Linda Ferguson, District Fuels Management Officer.

The following is a list of prescribed fire projects currently planned for this fall and winter on the Truckee Ranger District:

  • Hwy 89 North near Prosser Hill Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Area – 1,000 acres of understory burning, approximately two miles north of Tahoe Donner and Prosser Lakeview/Prosser Heights and adjacent to Klondike Flats
  • 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)

Smoke from prescribed fire operations is normal and may continue for several days after lighting, depending on the project size. Smoke will settle in low lying areas at night and into the morning and usually lifts out of an area during normal daytime heating. All prescribed fires are monitored closely for burning and smoke dispersal conditions and, if necessary, action is taken to mitigate concerns as they arise. Forest Service staff coordinate with state and local air pollution control districts and monitor weather conditions closely prior to prescribed fire ignition. They wait for predicted conditions that will carry smoke away from densely populated areas. Crews also conduct test burns before igniting a larger area to verify how effectively fuels are consumed and how smoke will travel.

“We are sensitive to  the impact smoke has on people, especially those with respiratory conditions and allergies, making every effort to conduct prescribed fire operations during weather patterns that carry smoke away from communities,” said Ferguson. “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. Fire is a natural part of the Sierra ecosystem. Our prescribed fire program is very important in our efforts to restore more natural ecosystems. A moderate amount of smoke now could prevent a lot of smoke later.”

A smoke monitor will be placed at Klondike Flats to accurately track smoke impacts to local communities. The data collected by these monitors will be used to minimize smoke impacts by providing decision makers real time information on dispersion and the associated environmental conditions.

For more information, or to receive prescribed fire notifications via e-mail, call or email Linda Ferguson at (530) 587-3558 or lmferguson@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.