Starting in June 2008, the Ochoco National Forest will have a new option for managing wildland fire known as “Wildland Fire Use” (WFU). This WFU Guide is unique in that it covers the entire forest and is not restricted to wilderness or unroaded areas.

The Ochoco WFU Guide describes specific conditions under which fire use may be considered. The conditions are intended to help determine whether a fire might result in resource benefits and each fire is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. As we gain more experience and knowledge about this tool, the guide may be updated and refined.

The 1995 Mill Prescribed Natural Fire (PNF) gave the Ochoco National Forest its first experience with wildland fire use. The Mill PNF was started by a late September lightning storm, and eventually burned about 1,250 acres within the Mill Creek Wilderness. The fire burned actively for approximately 12 days before season-ending rains put it out.

Hash Rock Fire

Hash Rock Fire

The positive effects of the Mill PNF in reducing hazardous fuel conditions and fire behavior became very apparent later on when the Hash Rock Fire occurred in August 2000. The Hash Rock Fire burned approximately 18,000 acres, with high fire intensity and stand replacement effects occurring on 50% or more of the fire area. While much of the Wilderness outside the Mill PNF burned intensely, the area within the PNF remained unaffected. The Hash Rock Fire made significant uphill runs on three sides of the PNF, but did not burn through it, as seen in the photos above.

The addition of WFU to the Ochoco NF fire management options will enhance the ability to restore fire as an ecological disturbance process and meet resource management goals. Wildfires that have a high potential for unwanted resource effects, and those with significant socio-political effects, will continue to be suppressed as safely and as efficiently as possible.

For more information, contact Dave Owens at (541)416-6425.