BEND, OR -- Firefighters from all over the world are in Central Oregon this week, training with the Deschutes National Forest. Kassidy Kern, with the Forest Service, says it's not just the good weather that's leading to more prescribed burns, right now, there are people in town ready and willing to help with the operations. "Because we have the training program, we're able to get more acres done, but really the prioritization of how and which units we choose to go with are really about the safety of our communities and protecting private land assets."
She says the Central Oregon Training Exchange, which is a partnership between the US Forest Service and the Nature Conservancy, gives firefighters a unique training opportunity. "We've brought people in from all over the world. There are people here from Florida, from Arkansas, and even a man from France, who are prescribed fire practitioners wherever they are, or in some cases, maybe they're learning about it for the first time. But, this is giving them an opportunity to continue their skills, and it gives us an opportunity to get more work done on the ground."
Kern tells KBND News igniting prescribed burns is an important part of forest health. "It's incumbent upon all of us, particularly in the west, but all over, to restore our forests back to a healthier landscape and that really is going to come from a suite of options in that forest restoration box from mowing and burning to even commercial thinning, as well."
A 121-acre burn scheduled for Thursday morning was posponed due to the search for a one-year-old baby, reported missing in the area
. After crews helped with that search effort, they returned to the prescribed burn, later in the day. That operation took place south of China Hat, approximately one mile south of the Back Nine Golf course and the Woodside Ranch subdivision.
Friday, they're expected to burn 250 acres adjacent to the Back Nine golf course. Due to the locations of the fires, nearby residents could see smoke and drivers could be impacted on nearby highways and forest roads.
FRIDAY UPDATE: Friday's operation was canceled due to high winds.