Fire Management

For current fire restrictions and fire danger level clck on this link

Fire Management

Prescribed Fire Activity

Excluded from the ecosystem for nearly 100 years, frequent, low-intensity fire is essential for healthy forests and better protected communities. Unlike wildfires, prescribed fire can be carefully planned to maximize restoration while minimizing smoke impacts and risk.

All units have been analyzed under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Burning typically takes place once all other activities described in the project analysis have been completed. Prescribed burning is highly dependent on precise weather and fuel conditions, and managers coordinate with the Oregon Department of Forestry to minimize air quality impacts to local communities. 

Interactive Map Link (This interactive map is best viewed using Chrome, Safari, Firefox or Internet Explorer 9 or higher).

The data  represents the recently completed, active, upcoming, and out-year prescribed fire planning for the Malheur National Forest.

Prescribed Fire Status:
Active - Unit is planned to be burned shortly, is currently being burned, or was burned recently
Completed - Burn is declared out
Upcoming - This unit is planned for burning within the next 2 years. Visitors may see fire crews preparing control lines
Out-year Planning - Identified for prescribed burning in 2-5 years pending completion of other activities


This prescribed fire incident has been established to provide public information on planned, active and completed prescribed burning for 2017 on the Malheur National Forest. Burning is planned on each of the three Districts on the Malheur NF:

  • Blue Mountain District, office in John Day, OR
  • Prairie City District, office in Prairie City, OR
  • Emigrant Creek District, office in Hines, OR


Forest management in the United States has changed dramatically over time. Sixty years ago forests were primarily used as a source of timber, today they are managed to provide a wide range of benefits for society. These benefits include recreation, timber, water, and wildlife habitat. Given the current health conditions of our forests, active management is needed to provide these benefits to the public.

A century of fire suppression has led to crowded forests that are dead or dying, and are highly vulnerable to attacks by insects, diseases, and wildfires.  These dense stands represent a threat to homes that border our forest from severe, high-intensity wildfires. Without human intervention, these forests leave us at an increased risk of catastrophic wildfire. Through the use of thinning, logging, burning, and other forest treatments, our goal is to restore thousands of acres to conditions that are compatible with frequent, low to moderate intensity wildfires. This will increase the health of the forest, and provides socio-economic benefits we need today and in the future.

Read on to learn more about how the fuels program operates on the Malheur National Forest, as well as helpful links to some of our partners and maps showing our locations for prescribed fire activities.

You will also find links to maps showing where the forest is currently planning and implementing prescribed fires of the Malheur National Forest.

Prescribed FirePrescribed fire burn on the MAF by employee Victor Garcia

After many years of fire exclusion, an ecosystem that needs periodic fire
becomes unhealthy. Trees on the forest are stressed by overcrowding,
fire-dependent species disappear, and flammable fuels build up and become hazardous.

The right fire, in the right place, at the right time will:

  • Reduce hazardous fuels, protecting human communities from extreme fires;
  • Minimize the spread of pest insects and disease;
  • Reduce unwanted species that threaten species native to an ecosystem;
  • Provide forage for game;
  • Improve habitat for threatened and endangered species;
  • Recycle nutrients back to the soil; and
  • Promote the growth of trees, wildflowers, and other plants;

The Forest Service manages prescribed fires and even some wildfires to benefit natural resources and reduce the risk of unwanted wildfires. So how do our land managers decide when and where to use prescribed fire? The National Environment Policy Act (NEPA) requires Federal agencies to consider environmental effects that include, among others, impacts on social, cultural, economic, and natural resources. The Forest Service, following the NEPA process, takes an interdisciplinary approach to identifying proposed actions based on multiple resource needs on the landscape, including prescribed fire. Proposed actions are further developed through a collaborative process involving the public, partners, Malheur National Forest staff and other interested agencies. Interested individuals or organizations have the chance to officially comment on proposals during designated stages of the planning process, as well as to engage in proposal development during open houses and field trips to the planning areas.

Proposed actions may include a variety of treatment activities such as logging for commercial product, thinning for desired forest conditions, or aquatics restoration for listed fish habitat, among others. Often prescribed burning is the last step in a series of actions proposed to restore the landscape. Then, treatment activities such as logging and thinning are conducted in areas in need of mechanical treatments.  Specialists write burn plans for prescribed fires to meet specific objectives for a treated area of the forest. Burn plans identify – or prescribe – the best conditions under which trees and other plants will burn to get the best results. Burn plans consider temperature, humidity, wind, moisture of the vegetation, and conditions for the dispersal of smoke. Prescribed fire specialists compare conditions on the ground to those outlined in burn plans before deciding whether to burn on a given day. Keep in mind Prescribed fire is not appropriate for all forested areas, as each area of the forest is managed for different benefits.

To learn more about how prescribed fire is implemented on the Malheur National Forest, check out the following links to our local partners.

High Desert Partnership

Harney County Restoration Collaborative

Blue Mountains Forest Partners


Wildland fire behavior is governed by three major factors: Fuels (amount, arrangement, and availability of flammable material), Topography (slope, aspect, and general layout of terrain), and Weather (wind, temperature, and humidity).  Of these, weather changes both the most drastically and rapidly, and is generally the greatest influencing factor on wildland fire behavior.

For Prescribed Fire, weather heavily governs our opportunities for burning, and figures heavily in our decision to light a prescribed fire. The conditions to light a prescribed fire are determined by the Burn Plan, which sets the appropriate weather conditions in which to burn.  If conditions are:

  • Too hot, dry, and/or windy: the fire will burn hot, throw embers, jump control lines, and pose a hazard to firefighters and the public.
  • Too cold and wet: the fire will not spread, it fail to consume fuels, and produce excessive amounts of smoke.
  • ”Just Right”: smoke production is reduced due to cleaner burning, fire spreads at a slow to moderate rate, and consumes down fuels as well as small trees, grass, and brush.  The fire will burn in a desired manner, in order to meet the objectives set forth in the burn plan.

For more information on the current fire weather forecast, visit the National Weather Service, Pendleton Fire Weather Forecast site:


Inhalation of excess smoke is widely known to be a health hazard. We manage this hazard by burning at times that reduce production of smoke, as well as provide favorable winds that disperse smoke away from more populated areas.

Unfortunately, we can never fully eliminate the health hazards of smoke. Wildland fire and the associated smoke production is a “pay now or pay more later” proposition.  Burning prescribed fires in a controlled manner allows us to reduce smoke, and to use the local winds to transport smoke away from populated areas.  By burning in this controlled manner, we are able to “pay a little now”, by minimally impacting the public. Or, we “pay later” by not treating the forest, and increase the risk of a wildfire burning aggressively during fire season.  With a wildfire there is no control over smoke production.  The smoke is also much more likely to impact large portions of the public by settling into populated areas.

Smoke forecasting and monitoring is accomplished through cooperation with the Oregon Department of Forestry, as well as the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.  For more information about our smoke dispersion program visit:

Oregon DEQ real time smoke monitoring information 

Oregon Department of Forestry Smoke Management Forecast


To reduce the chances of a catastrophic wildfire, the Fuels program on the Malheur National Forest works to reduce combustible fuels in the forest.  The most effective and appropriate sequence of fuel treatments depends on the amount of surface fuel present.  In forests that have not experienced fire for many decades, multiple fuel treatments are often required to achieve the desired fuel conditions. These fuels treatments may include:

  • In the most degraded forested sites, heavy mechanical treatments such as logging may be needed to increase crown spacing.  Crown spacing is important because properly spaced trees do not compete for resources.  Trees properly spaced are less likely to carry a crown fire, and fire is less likely to kill entire tree stands.
  • Thinning on the forest reduces ladder fuels, increases tree crown spacing, and reduces fuel accumulations near the forest floor.
  • The forest pile burning program is used to remove the woody fuels from thinning and logging activities.  Piles are usually burned in the fall and winter, when there is little chance the burn piles will escape.
  • Prescribed broadcast burning on the forest is an efficient fuels treatment.  Burning removes litter on the forest floor, thins small trees, removes ladder fuels, and can be used to increase crown spacing.  Because prescribed fire removes such a wide variety of fuels, it is the most effective at returning the forest to a healthy state, as well as reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

Recent Large Wildfires on the Malheur National Forest

Canyon Creek Complex Malheur National Forest-Overview and Frequently Asked Questions

The Canyon Creek Complex Overview and Frequently Asked Questions Report provides a narrative timeline of key events that occurred during the Canyon Creek Complex Fire as well as answer to the most frequently asked questions about the incident. Also included is an overview of the 2015 wildfire season across the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Region. Regional context is provided to explain when and why firefighting resources were limited—as well as the impacts of those limitations.

Full Document: Canyon Creek Complex, Malheur National Forest Overview & Frequently Asked Questions

Video: Fuel Treatment Effectiveness Review of the Canyon Creek Complex on the Malheur National Forest

Canyon Creek Complex Closure Order Rescinded

Forest officials terminated the Canyon Creek Complex closure order effective Friday, September 16, 2016. This reopened the area and affected roads to public use. Fire officials ask that the public uses caution when traveling in the burned area.  Be alert for hazards such as snag trees, slick ash, and erosion.  Hazard tree removal has been done along road right of ways. During wind events, an increase in snags falling may occur within the burn perimeter.


Rail Fire

As of 10/01/2016 all fire impacted areas of the Malheur National Forest, including the Monument Rock Wilderness, are open - however - visitors should anticipate downed trees. Be mindful of where you hike and camp as tree fall is prevalent.