PENDLETON — Fire management officials on the Umatilla National Forest are preparing to implement the forest’s fall prescribed burn plan, which could impact camping and hunting opportunities in several hunting units across the forest.
Any associated road and trail closures will go into effect prior to and during burn operations, which typically take up to five days to complete. Hunters are advised to plan ahead and avoid camping in the designated prescribed burn areas during the upcoming 2019 hunting season.
“From a restoration objective standpoint, late summer and fall provide the best opportunities for the timing of prescribed fires,” said Andrew Stinchfield, deputy fire staff officer. “Fire behavior during fall weather conditions are more likely to align with how the native vegetation has adapted to fire.”
Frequent, low-intensity fire is essential for healthy forests and reducing the risk of uncharacteristic wildfire caused by excessive fuel buildup. Prescribed burning is an effective tool for removing excessive amounts of brush, shrubs, and trees, while also encouraging the growth of native vegetation.
Prescribed burning is also highly dependent on weather conditions, which have to be within a narrow criteria window in order to use prescribed fire. Factors, such as wind speed and direction, temperatures, relative humidity and fuel moistures are all taken into consideration prior to implementing a prescribed burn operation. With the current rains and moderate temperatures across the forest, many areas are conducive to successful prescribed fire implementation in the near term.
Hunters should be cautious when entering a recently burned area and be aware of increased hazards, particularly snags. Dead or dying trees that remain standing after a fire are unstable, especially in high winds.
“Don’t camp or hang out in the burned area. And, as always, let someone know your planned route, destination and expected return time,” Stinchfield said.
Each prescribed burn represents years of planning and preparation to ensure burn operations meet prescriptive conditions that allow for successful burns that provide multiple benefits to resources.
Forest officials work closely with the Oregon Department of Forestry and Washington Department of Natural Resources in accordance with the state’s Smoke Management Plans to determine when, where, and how much is burned on a daily basis. Potential smoke impacts, looking at volume of smoke, direction of spread, and mixing heights, are determined prior to each burn. All burns will be monitored until a season-ending rain or snow occurs.