PENDLETON, Ore. — Fire management officials on the Umatilla National Forest are preparing to implement the Forest’s fall prescribed burn plan, which could impact camping and hunting opportunities in several hunting units across the Forest. Any associated road and trail closures will go into effect prior to and during burn operations, which typically take 2-5 days to complete. Hunters are advised to plan ahead and avoid camping in the designated prescribed burn areas during the 2023 hunting season.
Frequent, low-intensity fire is essential for healthy forests and reducing the risk of uncharacteristic wildfire caused by excessive fuel buildup. Prescribed burning is an effective tool for removing excessive amounts of brush, shrubs, and trees, while also encouraging the growth of native vegetation.
Prescribed burning is also highly dependent on weather conditions, which must be within a narrow criteria window to use prescribed fire. Factors such as wind speed and direction, temperatures, relative humidity, and fuel moistures are all taken into consideration prior to implementing a prescribed burn operation. With the current rains and moderate temperatures across the Forest, many areas are conducive to successful prescribed fire implementation in the near term.
“From a restoration objective standpoint, late summer and fall provide the best opportunities for the timing of prescribed fires,” said Andrew Stinchfield, Deputy Fire Staff Officer. “Fire behavior during fall weather conditions is more likely to align with how the native vegetation has adapted to fire.”
The Forest Service recognizes that hunting season coincides with prescribed burning season and can impact hunters, but controlled burns are necessary to reintroduce fire to the landscape and encourage healthy vegetation that will ultimately improve landscapes and forage for big game.
Hunters should be cautious when entering a recently burned area and be aware of increased hazards, particularly snags. Dead or dying trees that remain standing after a fire are unstable, especially in high winds.
Each prescribed burn follows a prescribed burn plan. These burn plans represent many years of analysis and preparation to ensure burn operations meet prescriptive conditions that allow for successful burns that provide multiple resource benefits and reduce the potential for adverse effects. The forest works closely with the Oregon Department of Forestry and Washington Department of Natural Resources in accordance with the State’s Smoke Management Plans to determine when, where, and how much is burned on a daily basis. Potential smoke impacts, looking at volume of smoke, direction of spread, and mixing heights, are determined prior to each burn. All burns will be monitored until a season ending rain or snow occurs.
The Umatilla National Forest has developed a map displaying planned burning activities. The interactive map allows the user to zoom in on certain areas and click on a burn unit for more information (such as acreage, status, etc). When burning operations begin the interactive map will be updated to display which burn units are actively burning.
In addition to the resources above, precise prescribed fire ignition dates will be posted on the Umatilla National Forest Facebook and Twitter pages, @UmatillaNF and online at www.fs.usda.gov/umatilla.