In Boise, forest fire managers have already launched the first in a series of prescribed fire burns. Plans for these scheduled burns have been in the works for months. Officials set out all details of the fire beforehand and prepare an endless set of circumstances so that they prioritize safety above all else.
According to Ryan Jones, fuels program manager for Boise National Forest, officials base their choice of what part of the forest to burn on what parts are overdue for a fire. The first burn, which took place on Oct. 16, was of a section of Cottonwoods in the forest. The last fire in that area was a prescribed burn in 2007, and by Jones’s data they need a fire every 10 to 13 years to manage the area’s fire history.
As hardwood trees, Cottonwoods take anywhere between 40 and 60 years to fully mature. Although it may seem unproductive to burn these long-lasting trees, wildlife experts say that prescribed burns actually benefit the environment. A planned burn maintains and restores the health of the forest by creating room for new growth and reducing chances of an unplanned fire that could devastate the area. The newly sprouting brush provides more protein and beneficial nutrients for deer and elk.
In Oregon, prescribed burns in the Deschutes National Forest will be taking place over the course of a week. Two different units will be managing the planned burns. The Sisters Ranger District and the Bend-Fort Ranger District are each coordinating burns in separate areas of the forest.
The goal of the forest fire managers is to aid in reducing hazardous fuels in the area, prompt western larch regeneration, and improve wildlife habitat. The same two district units managed forest burns in the area in 2006. This year’s burns are meant to reintroduce and maintain the previously fire-adapted landscape with more fire.
Fuels specialists will be following policies laid out in the Oregon Department of Forestry smoke management plan. With these guidelines, they will minimize the impact to visibility and public health that the smoke from the prescribed fires could have.