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Prescribed burn west of Bend puts up familiar plume


A smoke column at times eerily similar to the Two Bulls Fire that hit west of Bend this time last year could be seen from Pilot Butte and across much of the area Thursday.

The column however, was a prescribed burn, not a wildfire. However, it did burn in the same area as last year’s flames.

“Two Bulls was scary. That first night, I went to bed real, real late, thinking I was going to have to explain to homeowners that their homes were gone,” Kevin Larkin of the Bend Fort Rock Ranger District said Thursdsay.

Prescribed burns have a purpose in Central Oregon. This fire covered 70 acres. It encompassed land that has bike trails, hiking trails and homes nearby.

The goal of the burn was two-fold.

“We want to get fire back into the ecosystem for forest health,” said Trevor Miller of the Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District.

The plan seems counter-intuitive to many, but fighting fire with fire is real thing. The burned land is harder to catch fire — and if there is a wildfire, that area is a place wildland firefighters can get the upper hand on the flames.

“The Two Bulls Fire of last year is a great example of why we’re doing this,” Miller said.

The prescribed fire in the West Bend Project Area has been on the back burner until just the right time, weather-wise.

The land is close to people, and officials have to take extra care when burning. The metrics including wind, moisture, and more all have to be just right before the team heads into the forest.

Officials said their main concern is limiting the smoke impact. The “perfect” day only comes three to five times a year. The area Deschutes National Forest officials were working in usually has winds that blow west to east, which is right into Bend.

“We started smelling some smoke around Voodoo (bike trail), so we decided to head back,” one Phil’s Trail biker said.

Firefighters say the the smoke is worth it.

“A little smoke now prevents a lot of smoke later,” Larkin said.

Two Bulls was a wake-up call for many in Central Oregon, the public and firefighters alike.

“Fortunately we were able to catch that fire at exactly the last minute,” Larkin said.

Firefighters are working this year to make sure it doesn’t even get that close.

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