Fall and Spring Prescribed Fire Program

Many forests and rangelands in Central Oregon are in an unhealthy condition.

On forested lands, more than a century of fire suppression has led to crowded, dense forests that are dead or dying, and highly vulnerable to attacks by insects and disease. These dense stands also represent a potential threat of wildfire to the homes that border the forests. The desired future condition for many forested lands is to restore thousands of acres to conditions that are compatible with frequent, low– to moderate- intensity wildfires. We accomplish this by thinning dense stands and reintroducing fire, where appropriate.

On rangelands, fire suppression, along with past grazing practices, has led to the expansion of western juniper from rocky outcroppings down into the shrub-steppe habitat types. This expansion not only represents a threat to the homes and pastures that mix with the rangelands, but also leads to a loss of important grasses, shrubs and forbs, which are key habitat components to species such as the Greater Sage-grouse. In Greater Sage-grouse habitat, the desired future condition is to restore the land to a state that will reduce the spread of future unwanted wildfires. We accomplish this by thinning stands of juniper and reintroducing fire, where appropriate.

Prescribed fire is one tool used by fire managers and forest ecologists to reduce hazardous fuels, improve forest health, and protect the quality of our watersheds and wildlife habitat.

Weather

Prescribed fires are ignited under precise weather conditions to meet specific resource objectives. Specialists ignite prescribed fires using various ignition patterns when weather conditions are conducive to producing fire behavior that meets these resource objectives while at the same time protecting water, wildlife habitat, soil, or other resources of concern.

While many prescribed fires on forested lands are ignited when the weather conditions allow for slow, low-intensity burning, reducing juniper encroachment into rangelands means either burning under conditions more similar to summer or thinning stands, then burning “jackpots” of previously cut materials during the late fall or winter.

Specialists may spend years planning a prescribed fire and work very closely with wildlife biologists, foresters, hydrologists, and other resource managers to ensure the fire meets resource needs.

Smoke

Prescribed fires are ignited when predicted weather patterns and fuel conditions will minimize smoke impacts to air quality and public health. Specialists follow policies outlined in the Oregon Department of Forestry Smoke Management Plan, which governs prescribed fires and attempts to minimize impacts to visibility and public health. Once ignited, units are monitored and patrolled until they are declared out.

Wildfire

Wildfires, such as Two Bulls (2014, left) can impact the lives, property and lifestyles of people living or recreating in Central Oregon. Hazardous fuels, coupled with typical summer weather, can create conditions that increase fire danger.

Prescribed fire is one tool used to reduce fuel loadings and potential impacts to communities from wildfire, as well as protect key habitat components.

Follow us on Twitter: @CentralORFire

Have more questions?
Deschutes National Forest: (541) 383-5300
Ochoco National Forest: (541) 416-6500
Prineville Bureau of Land Management: (541) 416-6700

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Note that most pile burning units (burning of previously "gathered" or "piled" materials) are not included on this map.