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Smoke billows from prescribed burn south of Bend

KTVZ

Deschutes National Forest fuels specialists ignited up to 300 acres in a prescribed burn south of Bend Thursday, sending up a tall smoke plume visible for miles and bringing worried calls to authorities.

It was the second of two prescribed burns south of Bend this week that the forest issued an advisory about on Monday.

On Tuesday, fuels specialists planned to ignite 211 acres approximately 20 miles south of Bend. The prescribed fire area was located east of Highway 97 between Forest Road 9725 and 9735.

Ignitions are now planned on two units south of Bend, one mile west of Horse Butte. Winds are forecast that will facilitate smoke dispersal and minimize impacts to the community, officials said. If favorable winds materialize, fire managers could burn up to 337 acres in two days of burning.

Officials said Thursday that they were igniting 110 to 300 acres, but expected rain in Friday’s forecast could delay the second day’s work until Sunday.

Officials said Thursday’s burn was being contained well and crossed the boundary only once or twice, with very quick reaction.

Burning in both of these areas is designed to decrease hazardous fuels accumulations within the Wildland Urban Interface adjacent to the city of Bend and surrounding communities to reduce the risk of high-intensity wildfire.

Fire season is just around the corner, and crews are already out burning fuel to prepare.

Patrick Lair, public affairs officer, said, “They’re looking at the weather, the moisture in the fuels, and how dry or how wet the fuels are. There are a lot of criteria that go into planning these burns.”

With wildfire season on the horizon, more prescribed burns will be popping up all over Central Oregon with Thursday’s one of the first of the season. The burns were expected to cover anywhere from 150 to 300 acres.

It’s all being done now, to keep us safe in the future.

“It’s important to remove a lot of this dead and woody material in a safe manner with low-intensity fire,” Lair said.

This way, if a wildfire does spark up, much of the excess fuel has been removed, making it easier to manage.

“Fire is a natural process; it’s a natural part of the ecosystem. So we’re reintroducing fire in a safe low-intensity way, so we don’t get bigger fires down the road,” Lair said.

Depending on precipitation levels, there may be smoke in the air Friday as crews might continue burning. But if rain precludes further burning, you may see some on Sunday.

Due to the location of these units, the public could see smoke and drivers may experience smoke impacts on nearby highways and forest roads.

For all prescribed fires, signs will be posted on significant nearby Forest roads and state highways that could be impacted.

No road closures are anticipated with these projects. Residences and businesses in the area are advised to keep their windows and doors closed during the night hours to avoid any potential smoke impacts.

Fuels specialists will follow policies outlined in the Oregon Department of Forestry smoke management plan, which governs prescribed fires (including pile burning), and attempts to minimize impacts to visibility and public health.

Keep up with prescribed burns in Central Oregon by visiting this live map: http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/webmaps/deschutes/cofms-rxfire/

For more information, visit the Deschutes website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/deschutes

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KTVZ News Team

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