Spring Prescribed burning to begin on the Willamette National Forest near Oakridge

Contact(s): Joanie Schmidgall

Oakridge, OR— The onset of drier and warmer weather has firefighters preparing for prescribed burns across the Willamette National Forest. This spring, multiple burns are planned near the community of Oakridge and could begin as early as Wednesday, April 14.  The first prescribed burns will be taking place adjacent to Forest Service Road 19, just to the north of Oakridge. No closures are expected, but traffic in the area could experience delays from fire traffic or smoke impacts. Smoke may be visible to the north of town.

Prescribed burning is a valuable tool to improve forest health and increase resiliency to wildfire. It involves igniting a controlled, low intensity fire to consume undergrowth and post-harvest organic materials under specific conditions of temperature, wind, and humidity. This limits fire behavior and reduces the likelihood of heavy smoke impacting nearby communities. The benefits of treating these fuels include reducing the severity of future wildfires near communities, increasing firefighter safety in initial and extended response, and maintaining overall healthy forests.

“The goal of this burn is to reduce fuels and protect our community from wildfire,” said Jimmer Hunt, Fire Management Officer for the Middle Fork Ranger District. “Following a thinning treatment with a low-intensity underburn is an effective method to reduce fire danger and protect homes from a high-intensity wildfire.”

“We just experienced one of the worst wildfire seasons in decades in Western Oregon,” said District Ranger Molly Juillerat. “This shows how important it is to mitigate fire danger when we can and the need prepare communities adjacent to forests for possibility of a large fire close to town.”

This will be the first large scale prescribed burning effort to take place on the Middle Fork Ranger District in two years. Prescribed burning was deferred last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the year before that due to long lasting impacts from an ice storm.

While this project will produce smoke in the area, fire specialists will make every effort to avoid impacting local residents. Firefighters will burn carefully - utilizing weather patterns and burn tactics to generate less smoke. The Middle Fork Ranger District will be coordinating with Oregon Department of Forestry’s Smoke Management Division, and Lane Regional Air Protection Agency for air quality standards and clearance.  Fire crews will monitor the burn area for several days or as long as needed following completion.

Specific information will be provided prior to each burn day as fuels specialists verify weather conditions are conducive to burning, and smoke clearance is granted. For information, follow the Willamette National Forest Facebook page or Twitter (@WillametteNF) or contact the Middle Fork Ranger District at 541.782.2283.