Prescribed Burns


Firefighters monitor a prescribed burn.














2016 proposed Prescribed Burning Operations

Follow the activity of these prescribed burns on our InciWeb Page @

The Umatilla National Forest is planning and preparing for both the early (typically spring) and late (typically fall) prescribed burning program. Forest visitors and hunters can expect to encounter prescribed burning activities and need to avoid entering or camping near one of the treatment areas. Read April 2016 news release


2016 Prescribed Fire Project Map

larger map image
list of proposed prescribed burns, acreage and scheduled season

Heppner Ranger District:  

North Fork John Day Ranger District: 

Pomeroy Ranger District:

Walla Walla Ranger District:

Why prescribed burn?

Prescribed burns are used to achieve several goals. Most burns are prescribed to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire by reducing dead fuel accumulation, rearranging fuel accumulations and effecting the live vegetation in the area.

Research has shown that, in areas where prescribed burning has taken place, wildfires are more likely to stay in the surface fuels, close to the ground, and out of the tree crowns. Previous fuel treatments and prescribed burns on Umatilla National Forest Lands played a significant role in stopping the progress of the 2006 Columbia Complex Wildfire and the 2005 School Wildfire.

Prescribed burning is also used to significantly lower the risks that wildland fires represent to local communities, such as public safety and loss of private property.

Positive Benefits for Wildlife

Prescribed fire activities produce many positive benefits for big game animals such as mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk, and whitetailed deer. The absence of frequent low intensity fires in the landscape due to past fire suppression has caused a decline in forage quantity and quality in many areas of the Blue Mountains.

Also, with years of conifer encroachment, browse species such as bitterbrush, mountain mahogany, aspen, choke and bitter cherry, willow and other hardwoods species have declined or are essentially unavailable as forage. These hardwoods are an important source of high quality forage for deer and elk, especially as they prepare for winter, and again in the spring as they replenish lost body mass from the previous winter.

Prescribed fire invigorates both hardwoods and native grass species, making them more palatable and nutritious for big game species. Prescribed fire conducted on big game winter ranges not only improves forage quality and quantity, but it can help keep deer and elk on public lands for longer periods and away from private lands where conflicts can occur.

When will prescribed burns take place?

Prescribed burning is highly dependant on weather conditions. Conditions have to be within a narrow criteria window in order to use prescribed fire. Wind speed and direction, temperatures, relative humidity, and fuel moistures are all taken into consideration. Fall and spring weather provide the best conditions for prescribed burning: moist soil, dry material and cooler temperatures.

Burning will only take place when and if the conditions are right. The spring prescribed burning program should be completed by the end of June if not earlier.

Why burn in the fall when it impacts hunters?

Fall burning more closely mimics fires when they naturally occur and the fire effects are more in line with how the native vegetation has adapted to fire. So, from a restoration objective standpoint, late summer and fall is the best fit.

In the spring, we typically do not see natural ignitions (lightning fires) so fire is much less common or widespread. The fire effects on the vegetation are not as typical due to the increased moisture from green up in the spring. Spring burning is usually done to remove activity slash resulting from vegetation management treatments. While burning slash in the spring, the larger logs are much wetter and tend to remain through the burn which is a common objective. On a rare occasion, we may get a window to burn in the spring prior to green up which can be similar to fall conditions, however, access to the burn areas is hampered by snow and the burn windows are typically smaller and fleeting.

What is burned in a prescribed burn?

The burn program includes burning both activity fuels and natural fuels. Activity fuels such as “slash piles” consist of the non-merchantable material remaining after harvest activities. Activity fuel burns also reduce potential fire hazards and prepare the area for reforestation. Removing slash can stimulate plant growth for wildlife winter forage and reduces fuel accumulations. Natural fuels are created by the normal accumulation of dead and down material and can be compounded by insect and disease mortality. Natural fuel burns, or “landscape burns,” are low intensity burns conducted to meet forest management objectives and can take weeks to complete.

How do you conduct a prescribed burn?

Ignition will either be done on the ground by hand crews with drip torches or by aerial release of ping-pong balls, filled with a dark gray, granular substance called potassium permanganate that bursts into flames seconds after being injected with ethylene glycol (anti-freeze). Ping-pong ball ignition is an efficient, cost effective method for igniting large areas. Ping-pong balls drop through the tree canopy, keeping flames small and close to the ground. Ground crews will monitor burn activities.

What about all the smoke?

All prescribed burning will comply with federal, state, and local air quality and smoke dispersal guidelines to reduce the impacts of smoke on forest visitors and local residents.

Proposed Fall Prescribed Burns Planned and Mapped by District

(Complete information on the fall prescribed burn program will be posted soon!) 

  • North Fork John Day Ranger District: Kelly Hedgepeth  (541) 427-3231

  • Heppner Ranger District: Dale Boyd (541) 676-9187

  • Pomeroy Ranger District Map: Steve Carlson (509) 843-1891

  • Walla Walla Ranger District: Tyson Albrecht (509) 522-6290

For current fire information contact:

Blue Mountain Interagency Dispatch Center
(541) 963-7171

John Day Interagency Dispatch Center
(541) 575-1321