Forest Service resumes prescribed fire program, but some fear new rules will delay projects
Fire season has made landfall in Washington’s Cascade Range and elsewhere, with the potential for major fire activity the last few months of the year.
Wildland fire experts in Washington, Oregon and Idaho are watching closely to see how the wildfire season plays out, and the effects it could have on wildfires elsewhere.
They’re keeping a close eye on fire season in order to avoid unexpected problems, like burning out of the prescribed burn that was supposed to be the last day for the year.
For fire scientists, “the whole concept of prescribed fire is that we want to limit our fire activity,” said Don Cady, assistant professor of fire science at Oregon State University.
Fire managers often have the best access to weather forecasts. They know when it’s going to rain or snow, they know when it’s going to be too cold for people to be outside.
But they don’t always have the best weather forecast on the ground. They can’t watch the air for weather patterns that could spark brush fires or bring the rain to a standstill.
So they turn to the fire managers.
The last few months will be critical.
The weather in Washington state and Oregon are expected to trend cooler, as a major winter storm moves through. The fire managers want to make sure the fire season doesn’t turn the state into an early spring wildfire season.
And they need to be able to know when the weather allows them to begin a prescribed burning project.
“There’s so much that can go wrong,” Cady said.
Washington fire managers are waiting anxiously for the start date of a prescribed burning project in the Boundary National Grassland in Franklin County, east of Colville.
Fire managers at the Department of Natural Resources in Washington, where I do fire research, are waiting with bated breath for a planned prescribed burn to begin in the South Fork Valley.
They hope to begin the process early next year, but they know with weather like the past few have, it’s hard to be sure.
“Weather trends are really important,” said DNR fire managers, who also did the burn for a similar project last year.