Local News

Spring Burning Plans for Tonasket Ranger District

Apr 04, 2011

Spring burning conditions are being evaluated by the Tonasket Ranger District. Specialist are monitoring fuel moisture of accumulated forest debris and assessing weather conditions favorable for burning. This season, prescribed burning is being considered for Tunk Mountain, and the
Summit Lake area.

The spring prescribed fire season on the Tonasket Ranger District is likely to begin in late April and continue through the month of May. Due to a wet winter and continued snowfall in early spring, Schalow Mountain
burning will be postponed until fall. This will prevent impacts to wildlife that nest along the banks of Schalow Lake.

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.

"Prescribed fires are typically shorter in duration than wildfire and they take place under set conditions. As a result, the smoke generated by prescribed burning is significantly shorter in duration and carries far fewer irritants than wildfire", said Jen Croft, Fuels Specialist for the Tonasket Ranger District.

"Ignition for a prescribed fire will not begin until smoke dispersal and weather conditions are favorable, and burn plan objectives can be accomplished," she said.

The District's prescribed fire program emphasizes addressing forest fuel accumulations and wildfire potential in areas of the National Forest nearest private lands and those lands managed by other agencies. Lower to mid-valley elevations are of highest concern. Historically, these areas
experienced frequent fire, about every 5-35 years, from both human and natural causes. Those fires were low to moderate in intensity. Successful prevention and suppression of fires in these areas during the past century
has resulted in a change from historic forest conditions and fire potential.

Tonasket Ranger District is working to reduce this increase in fire potential by lowering forest fuel accumulations using commercial and pre-commercial thinning along with prescribed fire. 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.

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.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources regulates smoke management and approval to burn. The Tonasket Ranger District submits all prescribed fire activity to the Washington DNR for approval and coordinates
closely with air quality managers concerning smoke issues.

To speak with a prescribed fire specialist or obtain updates during the burn season, please call the Tonasket Ranger District's Prescribed burning information line at 509-486-5158.

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