TONASKET – Depending on conditions, Fuels Specialists on the Tonasket Ranger District could begin their fall prescribed burning program as early as next week; with underburns planned northwest of Conconully as well as east and southeast of Tonasket.
“Shorter daylight hours and cool evening temperatures together are a major factor in our decision to get started on fall prescribed burning,” said Shawn Plank, Assistant Fire Management Officer for Fuels on the Tonasket Ranger District. “The three primary projects on deck for underburning this fall are Mutton, Frosty and Lost.”
Mutton project is about six miles northwest of Conconully, Washington and includes up to 1200 acres of landscape underburning. The Lost project, 23 miles southeast of Tonasket, near Lyman Lake, includes about 300 additional acres of underburning if weather, fuel moistures, and smoke dispersions remain favorable. Frosty project is 850 acres, about 20 miles east of Tonasket, Washington. It includes burning fuels left behind from thinning projects as well as landscape underburning.
“Predicted weather, forest fuel moistures, favorable wind directions and speeds, along with other prescribed burning in the area are all considerations when determining whether to begin a prescribed burn.” said Plank.
Underburns are ground fires; they consume debris left behind from hazardous fuels reduction work. Prescribed fire is used to consume forest debris, competing vegetation, and ladder fuels. This fall’s underburns are designed to reduce fuel accumulations, limit the potential for large fire growth by removing increase ladder fuels, and return more historic fire return intervals onto the landscape. All of these factors work together; helping fire suppression efforts on the private and public land adjacent to the national forest.
Later in the fall, crews will work on pile burning. There are piles in North flank project area, south of Havillah, as well as piles in the Frosty, and Bannon areas east and southeast of Tonasket.
As part of the comprehensive Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Restoration Strategy, Tonasket Ranger District is working to reduce risk of catastrophic fire potential by lowering forest fuel accumulations using commercial and pre-commercial thinning combined with the reintroduction of fire back into the ecosystem. Additional benefits of prescribed burning include habitat restoration, maintenance of species diversity, stimulation of forage for browsing species, and the cyclic return of nutrients to the soil.
“We understand that this summer’s wildfires will have raised the sensitivity to prescribed burning this fall and encourage individuals who have concerns to call us to discuss how prescribed burning fits into our fuels program,” said Plank.
To get involved with prescribed fire planning efforts, please contact Shawn Plank, Tonasket Ranger District. To speak with a prescribed fire specialist or obtain updates during the burn season, please call the District’s prescribed burning information line at 509-486-5150. Ignition updates are also sent out on twitter at www.twitter.com/OkaWenNF.
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources regulates smoke management and must approve smoke for all controlled burns on national forests within the state. Okanogan-Wenatchee N.F. fire specialists closely coordinate with the state’s air quality managers.