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‘A critical tool’: Deschutes National Forest plans to start stepped-up prescribed burn season in mid-April

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Prescribed burn season is starting up again on the High Desert. The Deschutes National Forest is planning more than ever before, up to 11,000 acres.

"Prescribed burning is a critical tool that the forest uses," Jaimie Olle, the forest's public affairs specialist, said Tuesday. "We live in a fire-dependent ecosystem that relies on prescribed fire."

Firefighters are gearing up for prescribed burns, set for mid-April. 

During spring and fall, when there's more moisture vegetation is removed to restore the forest and increase safety. 

Olle said, "We've typically conducted upwards of 4,500 acres on average for the past 15 years on the Deschutes National Forest, and we hope to increase that pace and scale of the work."

This spring, the goal is an estimated 11,000 acres of prescribed burning, including 7,000 acres on the Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District, more than 1,000 acres on the Crescent Ranger District and more than 2,000 acres on the Sisters Ranger District. 

Firefighters work with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Oregon Department of Forestry smoke forecasters to minimize the smoke impact on residents.

Deschutes County Health Services Climate and Health Coordinator Sarah Worthington explained who is most affected by the smoke.

"Some people have worse symptoms as a result of being exposed to wildfire smoke, and that includes folks who have heart conditions, lung conditions, other chronic conditions, older adults and children, youth, infants," she said.

Deschutes County Public Health recommends limiting your exposure to the smoke, closing your windows at night and checking the current air quality readings.

"When you live in a place like Central Oregon, it's not a matter of if it's going to get smoky, but when it's going to get smoky" she said, "and what we can all do to adapt and adjust our behaviors to limit our exposure."

To prepare, you can visit CentralOregonFire.Org to see where the burns will take place. And if you must go outside in heavy smoke, consider wearing an N-95 mask.

Article Topic Follows: Fire

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Kelsey McGee

Kelsey McGee is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Kelsey here.


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