LAKE TAHOE, Calif./Nev., Oct. 30, 2023– The Tahoe Fire & Fuels Team (TFFT) is scheduled to continue fall prescribed fire operations over the next several weeks at Lake Tahoe, conditions and weather permitting. California State Parks is schedule to continue understory burning at Burton Creek and Sugar Pine Point state parks. California Tahoe Conservancy with assistance from Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District is scheduled to continue burning piles near Crystal Bay. North Tahoe Fire Protection District is scheduled to burn piles near Carnelian Bay. North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District is scheduled to continue understory burning near Incline Village. The USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit is scheduled to continue burning piles and heavy fuels (large diameter vegetation that includes snags, logs, and large limb wood, which when ignited are consumed more slowly than light fuels) near Fallen Leaf Lake. This operation may produce more smoke than usual as winds are expected to remain calm. Recent moisture and cold temperatures have given Forest Service firefighters the opportunity to burn this unit that is in a shaded, north facing area. Smoke from all these operations may be present throughout the Tahoe Basin. For the current air quality index, visit AirNow and the U.S. EPA/Forest Service Fire and Smoke Map. View the prescribed fire map with project details and locations at Tahoe Living With Fire.

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Historically, low-intensity wildfires ignited by lightning or native peoples routinely burned through fire-adapted ecosystems of the Sierra Nevada. These low-intensity fires burned at low temperatures and moved slowly across the ground removing forest debris such as pinecones, needles, limbs, dead and downed trees, and ladder fuels. Watch the Forest Service video for an in-depth explanation of low-intensity fire. Prescribed fires are meant to mimic these naturally occurring low-intensity fires that are essential to fire-adapted ecosystems. 

Prescribed fire managers use different methods to remove excess vegetation (fuels) and reintroduce low-intensity fire into forests through pile, broadcast, and understory burning. Pile burning involves burning slash piles that are constructed by hand or mechanical equipment. Broadcast and understory burning use low-intensity fire to remove fuels under specific environmental conditions with fire confined to a predetermined area.

Prescribed fires are a vital forest management tool used by land managers to help protect communities by removing fuels that can feed unwanted wildland fires. Burning excess vegetation also benefits forest health by making room for new growth which provides forage for wildlife, recycles nutrients back into the soil and helps reduce the spread of insects and disease.

Prescribed fires may take place any time of year when conditions are favorable. Fall and winter typically bring cooler temperatures and precipitation, which are ideal for conducting prescribed fire operations. Each operation follows a specialized burn plan, which considers smoke dispersal conditions, temperature, humidity, wind, and vegetation moisture. All this information is used to decide when and where to burn.

The TFFT strongly supports the use of prescribed fire under appropriate conditions and works closely with air quality districts to avert smoke impacts on the public. Smoke from prescribed fires is normal and may continue for several days after an ignition depending on the project size, conditions, and weather. Prescribed fire smoke is generally less intense and of much shorter duration than smoke produced by unwanted wildfires. View smoke management tips.

Prior to prescribed fire ignitions, agencies coordinate closely with local and state air quality agencies to monitor weather for favorable conditions that can disperse smoke, conduct test burns before igniting larger areas to verify how well vegetation is consumed and how smoke rises and disperses before proceeding, post signs on roadways in areas affected by prescribed fire operations, email notifications to the prescribed fire notification list, and update the local fire information line at 530-543-2816. The TFFT gives as much advance notice as possible before burning, but some operations may be conducted on short notice due to the small window of opportunity for implementing these projects.

To be added to the prescribed fire notification list, send us an email. Learn more about living in fire-adapted ecosystems at Tahoe Living With Fire and get prepared, get informed, and get involved!

The Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team (TFFT) consists of representatives of Tahoe Basin fire agencies, CAL FIRE, Nevada Division of Forestry and related state agencies, University of California and Nevada Cooperative Extensions, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the USDA Forest Service, conservation districts from both states, the California Tahoe Conservancy and the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board. Our Mission is to protect lives, property and the environment within the Lake Tahoe Basin from wildfire by implementing prioritized fuels reduction projects and engaging the public in becoming a Fire Adapted Community.