MADRAS, OR -- It’s not yet wildfire season, but smoke has already appeared in the skies above the Crooked River National Grassland. On Wednesday, firefighters started burning piles of downed junipers in the Ramms Road area, roughly nine miles southeast of Madras. The Juniper Jackpot operation follows the thinning of 5,000 acres in the Willow Creek Watershed by several agencies, "We've thinned lots and lots of juniper, and then we opened it up to personal firewood collection the last couple of years," Patrick Lair, with the Forest Service, tells KBND News, "So a lot of people have been in there, cutting it as firewood. Now it's time to just go in and burn what's left of those downed juniper trees."
Work on the "Juniper Jackpot" project will continue over the next four to five weeks, weather permitting. "I think we were hoping maybe that we wouldn't get quite as much rain or snow, but we can still burn piles, even if there's moisture. It's not like a prescribed burn where you need the grasses and the fine fuels to be dry enough to carry fire. That said, if there's a lot of rain, then we're not going to be able to burn." Rain and even snow remain in the forecast but Lair is optimistic, "We're not talking about a prescribed burn where we're trying to get the grass to carry fire down through the drainage, we're just going pile to pile, lighting the slash that's left on the ground, and getting it out of there, so that it's not a fire hazard, come July and August."
In addition to reducing the wildfire risk, the operation aims to improve winter range for big game and provide better summer grazing.
Photo: courtesy @CentralORFireInfo on Twitter