BEND, OR -- Central Oregon is finally at the end of a tough wildfire season. A handful of large wildfires scorched tens of thousands of acres of High Desert forestland, this summer. And, as the weather cools, fire managers plan to burn even more. "People want to talk about fire season, but the most important work we do is between fire seasons, and dealing with those hazardous fuels. That’s what we can control," Jean Nelson Dean, with the Deschutes National Forest, tells KBND News. "We can’t always control whether it’s a lightning start or a human caused fire. But, we can control getting those fuels treated."
She says prescribed burns can lower the risk of catastrophic wildfires, but they are tightly are regulated by state smoke mitigation rules, which are much stricter than federal regulations. "In the last several years, we’ve had 15 ‘smoke intrusions’ based on the Oregon Smoke Management rules. If we just followed the EPA rules, we would have only had two smoke intrusions." Smoke intrusions mean air quality is considered negatively impacted by burning operations. Some local lawmakers support loosening those restrictions to allow more prescribed burns in the spring and fall. Nelson Dean says, "Trying to burn under better conditions makes it less likely that we have the kind of smoke that we had this summer." Click HERE
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The Deschutes National Forest conducted its first prescribed burn of the season Tuesday, near Lake Billy Chinook. Three more are slated for Wednesday and Thursday north of La Pine: The first is a 173-acre unit just west of Wake Butte. A 75-acre unit and another 51 acres are scheduled for ignition Thursday near South Century Drive, west of Fall River Estates.