Officials plan to use contained blazes to limit wildfire risk
U.S. Forest Service crews will conduct controlled burns in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in Washington this fall and winter to reduce forest fire hazards.
The fires will be set in Klickitat County, Wash., east of Bingen, and White Salmon between Courtney Road and Tracy Hill, according to a press release from the U.S. Forest Service. The burns are planned from October to January, as part of an ongoing fire management program to reduce the risk of wildfires.
"We're coming into a weather window, which means temperatures, humidity, and ground moisture are just right for successfully burning while still maintaining control of the fire," said Roland Rose, a fire fuels planner with the National Scenic Area.
Smoke may be visible on Interstate 84 and on Washington State Route 14 during burns.
The actual day for the burns will be selected when conditions such as humidity, wind speed and direction, temperature and moisture levels of vegetation ensure a low intensity, well-controlled fire, according to the release.
"Since Eagle Creek Fire, there's an increased awareness about the importance of tools such as prescribed fire for managing fuels in wildland-urban interface areas such as the Gorge," said Bart Kicklighter, fire management officer for the national scenic area.
The Eagle Creek Fire began on Sept. 2, 2017, after a then 15-year-old Washington male juvenile threw fireworks into the Eagle Creek Canyon. The fire consumed more than 48,000 acres in the nearly two months it burned before it was 100 percent contained on Nov. 30.
Prescribed burning is a low-intensity fire that will clear ground vegetation and accumulated debris (known as "fuels") from the forest floor. Fuels management will help restore historic landscapes in the eastern portion of Gorge. Controlled burns also recycle soil nutrients, improve wildlife habitat and biodiversity, and increase the resiliency of the treated stands to the effects of wildfire.
Once specific dates for burning are confirmed, details will be posted on the U.S. Forest Service's Facebook and Twitter accounts at Facebook.com/crgnsa or Twitter.com/crgnsa.