“Depending on weather and fuel moisture, crews could begin burning in April,” said Shawn Plank, Fuels Specialist on the Tonasket Ranger District. “The season could extend to June if conditions permit.”
There are eleven areas described in the 2013 Burn Plan, a brochure produced by the Forest Service that describes the areas planned for either spring or fall treatment and the reasons for those treatments.
This season, prescribed burning treatments on the Methow Valley Ranger District are planned northwest of Winthrop Washington near Eightmile Creek, Cub Creek and Fawn Creek; west of Winthrop near Wolf Creek; West of Twisp near Little Bridge Creek; east of Twisp near the Loop Loop Summit; east of Carlton in the Leecher Mountain area; and west of Methow in the McFarland Creek and Squaw Creek Drainages.
Tonasket Ranger District has prescribed burning treatments planned this spring in the Mt Annie and the Tunk Mountain areas; both are southeast of Tonasket, Washington.
In some areas, the prescribed treatment is underburning to address accumulations of slash and natural fuels. Fuels Specialists intend to use these treatments to reintroduce fire effects on the landscape and reduce the wildfire risk to nearby homes and forested lands. In other areas, the treatment planned involves burning piles of slash from thinning treatments.
Each element that affects the success of a prescribed fire plan is evaluated prior to ignition. Smoke dispersal and minimization of smoke impacts to public health are of primary concern. Monitoring weather conditions, long term forecasts, forest fuel moistures, and neighboring prescribed fire activity are all part of the evaluation process. Before submitting a prescribed burn for approval, specialists on the Methow Valley and Tonasket Ranger Districts monitor the moisture of accumulated forest debris and assess weather conditions.
“Timing is important and we try to plan our ignitions to coincide with favorable winds that will help disperse smoke away from residential areas,” said Meg Trebon, Assistant Fire Manager for Fuels. Then, on the day of the burn, we do not begin ignition until smoke dispersal and weather conditions are favorable, and burn plan objectives can be accomplished.”
Prescribed burning is one of the tools used to reduce existing forest fuel accumulations in an effort to reduce wildfire potential and improve forest health. The prescribed fire program is intended to improve the safety of the public and wildland firefighters, minimize the size and intensity of wildfires, and create healthy forested habitats. Additional benefits of prescribed burning include habitat restoration, maintenance of species diversity, stimulation of forage for browsing species, and return of nutrients to the soil.
The program emphasizes treatment in areas of the National Forest that are nearest private lands and those lands managed by other agencies. Lower to mid-valley elevations are of highest concern. The prescribed burning program is part of the comprehensive Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Restoration Strategy. Forest Service managers began implementing the strategy in 1999 to reduce the threat of uncharacteristically severe fires and bring resiliency to unhealthy forest ecosystems.
To get involved with prescribed fire planning efforts, please contact Meg Trebon at the Methow Valley Ranger District or Jen Croft at the Tonasket Ranger District. To speak with a prescribed fire specialist or obtain updates during the burn season, please call the Districts’ Prescribed burning information lines. Methow Valley’s 24 hour prescribed burning information line is 509-996-4032 and Tonasket’s is 509-486-5158. Ignition updates are also posted on twitter at www.twitter.com/OkaWenNF.
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources regulates smoke management and must approve all controlled burns on national forests within the state. Okanogan-Wenatchee N.F. fire specialists closely coordinate with the state’s air quality managers, after they receive burn approval.