Low intensity fire is good

Tahoe National Forest, Calif. September 19, 2019 –  The Truckee and Sierraville Ranger Districts on the Tahoe National Forest will conduct prescribed fires this fall/winter to reduce build-up of hazardous fuels and to continue restoring forest ecosystems.  Hazardous fuel reduction through prescribed fire is the most effective and cost efficient treatment influencing fire behavior, suppression success, and forest health.

Fall and winter bring precipitation and cooler temperatures which 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 reduce the severity of future wildfires, provide added protection for communities in the wildland urban interface (WUI), and re-establish natural ecosystems using fire. Reintroducing fire through 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 these techniques are important to this proactive forest/fuels management.

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

The following is a list of prescribed fire projects currently planned for this fall/winter:

The Sierraville Ranger District plans to implement around 500 acres of understory burning and 500 acres of pile burning across the district through the fall and winter. Underburn projects are available in the areas of Little Truckee Summit along Hwy. 89 and Sierra Co. Rd 451 (Cottonwood Road), northeast of the Independence Lake area along the Forest Service 07-10 Road, and near the Lewis Mill Guard Station along Sierra Co. Rd 860 (Smithneck Road).  Pile burning projects are planned near the communities of Calpine and Loyalton Pines, as well as in the general Little Truckee Summit/ Independence Lake area, and various other areas throughout the District.

The Truckee Ranger District is also planning to implement approximately 500 acres of understory burning and 500 acres of pile burning throughout this fall and winter.  The understory burn units are located north of Truckee near Klondike Flats, Prosser OHV, and Sagehen Summit.  Pile burning units are located near Sagehen Summit, Russel Valley, Prosser Reservoir, and Serene Lakes.

Smoke from prescribed fire operations is normal and may continue for several days after lighting. Smoke settles in low lying areas at night and into the morning and usually lifts out during normal daytime warming. Fire crews conduct small test burns before igniting a larger area to verify how effectively fuels will be consumed to ensure the burn and smoke management objectives can be met. All prescribed fires are monitored closely for burning and smoke dispersal conditions and, if necessary, action is taken to mitigate concerns as they arise. Fire personnel closely patrol prescribed burn 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 are sensitive to the impact smoke has on people, especially those with respiratory conditions and allergies and we make every effort to conduct prescribed fire operations during weather patterns that carry smoke away from communities.  The wildfires of 2018 are a reminder of the importance of fuel 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 and resilient ecosystems and minimize the severity of wildfires. A moderate amount of smoke now could prevent a lot of smoke later as well as reduce risks to the public, firefighters, and our natural resources.

For more information, or to receive prescribed fire notifications via e-mail, call or email the following contacts: Truckee RD- Linda Ferguson, District Fuels Specialist, at (530) 587-3558 or linda.ferguson@usda.gov; Sierraville RD- Ruby Burks, District Fuels Specialist, at (530) 994-3401 or ruby.burks@usda.gov. 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 https://smokeybear.com/en/about-wildland-fire/benefits-of-fire/prescribed-fires.