As we move into the spring season, area residents and visitors to the Lassen National Forest could start to notice some smoke in the air. That’s because as weather conditions allow for safe and effective burning, spring prescribed burning projects will get underway.
“Burning will be implemented when air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, and fuel moisture are in the desired range,” explains Forest Service Public Affairs Specialist Esther Miranda-Cole, “These are some of the parameters identified and used in prescribed fire plans, also known as prescriptions.”
Objectives of prescribed burning are to
• reduce the accumulation of hazardous fuels – dead and fallen trees, dead branches, and brush – that can feed catastrophic wildfires.
• restore fire-resilient forests by reintroducing fire into the ecosystem, and thereby help return the landscape to a more natural state.
• improve ecological conditions, via the nutrients released back into the soil from consumed fuels, which leads to greater understory productivity and more forage for wildlife.
The combination of thinning and burning done during prescribed treatments also offers benefits to surrounding communities.
According to Debbie Mayer, District Fire Management Officer on the Hat Creek Ranger District, treated areas are used to help defend communities against fire.
“In several instances on the Lassen National Forest, for example the 2008 Peterson and 2009 Butte fires, treated areas also aided in reducing fire size and lowering suppression costs,” said Mayer.
Research has also shown that both fire intensity and tree mortality are reduced in stands that are both thinned and prescribe-burned when compared to adjacent untreated stands. The Cone fire, within the Blacks Mountain Experimental Forest on the Eagle Lake Ranger District, is one such example.
Precautions will be taken to minimize the amount of smoke in the air during the spring prescribed burning campaign. Burning will only take place on permissible burn days. Additionally, the Forest will coordinate with other public agencies and industry landowners in the areas surrounding the burn locations to help limit the smoke present in the air at any one time.
Area residents and visitors can expect to see fire equipment and smoke activity associated with the following projects on the three districts of the Lassen.
The Eagle Lake Ranger District (ELRD) is preparing to implement its spring prescribed fire program. Prescribed burning will occur when weather conditions allow for safe and efficient burning, which could be as early as mid-April and continuing through July.
Approximately 1,300 total acres of understory burning will occur in the following locations on the ELRD:
• Crater Mountain area: 110 acres
• Pegleg Mountain area: 470 acres
• Bidwell Springs area: 220 acres
• Harvey Valley area: 200 acres
• Dow Butte: 300 acres; Dow Butte is the only project area located within 10 miles of a community (approximately six miles north of Spaulding).
Depending on weather conditions during prescribed burning, smoke could be visible from Susanville, the Eagle Lake Basin, and while traveling on Highways 44 and 139 and County Roads A1 and A21.
The Almanor Ranger District (ALRD) is planning to implement three prescribed fire underburn projects this spring, weather permitting:
• Cold Springs project: 35 acres located in eastern Tehama County, 12 miles north/northeast of the community of Cohasset, five miles west of Butte Meadows, and 15 miles due north of Forest Ranch. Prescribed fire is planned along the H-Line Fuel Break, which was constructed cooperatively with Sierra Pacific Industries and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The portion of the fuel break where the prescribed burn will be implemented is a second entry thin-by-fire prescription, and this is one stage of moving these units towards a desired fuel loading condition and maintenance for the fuel break. Implementation will occur in April. Smoke from this project will likely be visible from the Valley (Chico, etc.).
• Turkey project: 126 acres within the Brown Ravine Defensible Fuel Profile Zone (DFPZ). This project will utilize funding from the National Wild Turkey Federation to improve California black oak forest stands that provide valuable habitat for wild turkeys, as well as a host of other wildlife species. The Turkey burn is located in Butte County six miles northeast of Stirling City. Implementation is planned for May or June, depending on conditions. Smoke will likely be visible from the Sacramento Valley.
• West Dusty project: Approximately 140 acres of underburning in northern Plumas County. Prescribed fire will be implemented in previously harvested timber units with the purpose of maintaining a DFPZ. The project area is 10 miles northwest of the town of Chester. Because of air quality concerns, this burn could take up to five days of ignition to complete. Implementation is set to begin in May or June, and will be dependent on conditions being favorable for meeting objectives and lifting the smoke up and out of the Almanor Basin.
Finally, the Hat Creek Ranger District (HCRD) has plans for spring prescribed burning as follows.
• Blacks Ridge project area: Approximately 700 acres in the vicinity of Blacks Ridge. Smoke may be visible from the community of Little Valley.
• North Coble project area: Approximately 500 – 700 acres. Smoke may be visible from the communities of Hat Creek and Fall River Mills, and also from Highway 89.
• South Station: Approximately 200 – 300 acres, weather permitting. Smoke will likely be visible from the community of Old Station, as well as from Highway 44.
The HCRD may also consider some units within the Old Station area if time and weather permit. If burning does take place in this area, smoke may impact the community of Old Station, as well as Highway 44/89.
Impacts to all HCRD areas should be minimized by burning under favorable winds and conditions.
For more information regarding prescribed burning on the Lassen National Forest, please contact the following:
Eagle Lake Ranger District: Fuels Officer Chuck Lewis, 530-257-4188
Almanor Ranger District: Fuels Planner Jennifer Hensel, 530-258-2141
Hat Creek Ranger District: Fuels Officer Dale Newby, 530-336-5521