(Update: Burn underway; officials say it's going well; air quality poor to the south)
About 350 acres to be burned over 1-2 days; smoke turns Sunriver air quality 'unhealthy'
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Deschutes National Forest fuels specialists began a planned, 350-acre prescribed burn west of Bend, in the Phil's Trail area on Thursday, putting up a large smoke column visible from across Bend and Redmond and sending it south into southern Deschutes County.
"Ignitions are progressing well and are within the parameters for restoring our fire adapted ecosystem by reintroducing low-intensity fire back onto the landscape," officials said in a Twitter update. "While fire intensity may increase in pockets, overall, fire behavior continues to be low to moderate."
But the smoke blowing south is also having an impact on air quality, which has dropped to the moderate range in La Pine and unhealthy in Sunriver.
The project area is located south of Phil’s Trailhead, west of Bend, and includes portions of the KGB, COD, and Marvin’s Garden trails, which will be closed during fire operations. Forest Service Road 4604 also will be closed along with several smaller Forest Service roads. Closed roads and trails will be signed.
Specialists will underburn approximately 350 acres. Ignitions are expected to take 1-2 days and will occur between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day.
Smoke and residual burning will be visible in the area for up to a week post ignition. Subdivisions and neighborhoods on the west side of Bend can expect some nighttime and early morning smoke impacts after the burn. Trails will reopen once deemed safe.
The objective of this prescribed burn is to reintroduce fire into a fire evolved ecosystem and to reduce the potential impacts of a wildfire coming into Bend and Century Drive.
The public is encouraged to close their windows at night and if smoke is on the roadway, turn on headlights and slow down while traveling through smoky areas.
The public’s health is important to the Forest Service, the agency said. While significant preventive measures are taken, many factors influence a person’s susceptibility to smoke, including severity and duration of smoke exposure and a person’s health. If individuals feel impacted by smoke, they should avoid outdoor physical exertion and remain indoors. If people experience serious health impacts from the smoke, they should contact their doctor.
For more information about smoke and health, visit the Oregon Health Authority recommendations through this link: http://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/Preparedness/Prepare/Pages/PrepareForWildfire.aspx#health