PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The USDA Forest Service is pausing all spring prescribed fire efforts on national forest lands across the states of Oregon and Washington, the agency announced Tuesday afternoon.
“We care deeply about our communities across the region and didn’t want to risk introducing smoke from prescribed fire into communities that may be affected by COVID-19,” said John Giller, Director of Fire and Aviation Management for the Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service.
“With this pause, we can better protect those who may also be in higher-risk groups for COVID-19, such as the elderly and those with underlying respiratory conditions.”
While frequent, low-intensity fire is essential to the long-term health of many northwest forests and communities, employee and public safety remains the top priority, the agency said.
The Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region contains 17 National Forests, a National Scenic Area, a National Grassland, and two National Volcanic Monuments, all within the States of Oregon and Washington.
Around the same time late Tuesday, the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests and Crooked River National Grassland announced that all prescribed fire ignitions have been postponed until further notice.
In consideration of the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic locally and in our region, all burning will be suspended at this time.
The safety and health of our communities are our highest priority. Potential smoke impacts to the public are considered in all prescribed fire and wildfire management.
As always, we will work in coordination with local and state health organizations and make any necessary changes should the need arise.
This decision to temporarily postpone ignitions will prevent any effects from smoke that might further worsen conditions for those who are at risk in our communities, while reducing exposure for employees who might not otherwise need to travel, and creating social distancing for resources working on a fire.
Keep up with prescribed burns in Central Oregon by visiting: http://www.centraloregonfire.org