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405-acre prescribed burn, in the works for years, planned Saturday along east side of Highway 20 north of Sisters

KTVZ file

'Strategic location' near homes, 'critical infrastructure'; public urged to avoid area this weekend

SISTERS, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Firefighters on the Sisters Ranger District plan to conduct prescribed burn operations directly north of Sisters along Highway 20 this Saturday, a "crucial" unit in the works for years.

If conditions are favorable, firefighters plan to ignite 405 acres with prescribed fire on the east side of Highway 20 just south of Indian Ford Campground and Forest Service Road 2059.

"This prescribed burn unit is located in a strategic location adjacent to residences, private property, and critical infrastructure, including Highway 20 and recreation opportunities," officials said in Wednesday's announcement.

"Implementing this prescribed burn is crucial to meeting the Deschutes National Forest’s obligations within the Greater Sisters Country Wildfire Protection Plan and upholding the Forest Service’s commitment to addressing the Wildfire Crisis Strategy," they continued.

"This prescribed burn unit has been on the docket for several years as firefighters have tried to find the proper conditions window to move smoke away from Highway 20 and communities."

“Minimizing socioeconomic impacts to local communities including recreation events is very important, and, when given the choice, we will work around tourism and public events,” says Sisters District Ranger Ian Reid. “However, safety is the most important factor in managing prescribed burning, and in this specific situation, the impacts of potential smoke across a busy highway and the associated hazards with poor visibility require us to burn on the weekend, when we have the weather conditions suitable to provide for public and firefighter safety.”

Due to active prescribed burn operations in the area, the Forest Service asks that the public avoid Forest Service Road 2059-500 and Zimmerman Butte on Saturday and Sunday.

"We know this is a popular recreational shooting area and we appreciate the support of the public to avoid it this weekend," the announcement said. "Please contact the Sisters Ranger District at (541)549-7700 for alternative suitable shooting areas. Additionally, the Sisters Tie Trail near Indian Ford Campground will also be closed on Saturday and Sunday during burn operations."

Prescribed burning reintroduces and maintains fire within a fire-dependent ecosystem helping to stabilize and improve the resiliency of forest conditions while increasing public and firefighter safety. Once firefighters ignite prescribed burns, they monitor and patrol the units until they declare the burn out.

Prescribed burns can protect homes from tragic wildfires. Fire management officials work with Oregon Department of Forestry smoke specialists to plan prescribed burns. Prescribed burns are conducted when weather is most likely to move smoke up and away from our communities. Sometimes, weather patterns change, and some smoke will be present during prescribed burns. The Forest Service is closely coordinating with Oregon Department of Transportation on this prescribed burn as it relates to the management of Highway 20.

What does this mean for you?

During prescribed burns, smoke may settle in low-lying areas overnight.

For more information on prescribed burning in Central Oregon, visit and for information specific to the Deschutes National Forest, visit Follow us on Twitter @CentralORFire. Text “COFIRE to 888-777 to receive wildfire and prescribed fire text alerts.

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