Thursday, June 29, 2017

Prescribed Fires Require a Balancing Act

Deschutes County Commissioners tour the sites of controlled burns in the Deschutes National Forest.   Photo: Deschutes County. 

Where there's smoke, there's fire - and a balancing act. The balance of fire in the woods - both as a friend to clear brush and improve forest health, and as an enemy the west battles every year - was the focus of a tour yesterday with the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), the Oregon Department of Environment Quality (DEQ) and the Deschutes National Forest.  

The group, including the three Deschutes County Commissioners, toured several prescribed burn areas to help understand the need for and benefits from prescribed fires on the landscape.  

"This is a critical conversation for all Oregonians to have," said Doug Grafe, chief of fire protection for ODF.   

The group discussed the benefits to Ponderosa pine from fire as well as the resulting smoke that infiltrates nearby communities whether its a prescribed fire or a wildfire. Tom Kuhn from Deschutes County Public Health advised that smoke pollution from wildfire is more hazardous to our health than smoke from prescribed burns. People in Central Oregon are starting to understand that balancing act - a little smoke from prescribed fires is preferred over a lot of smoke from a devastating wildfire.  

Tours like these are a fantastic way to help educate stakeholders, especially our elected officials and community members, about the value of prescribed fire in our forests and around communities. The Cohesive Strategy suggests that as a nation, we will have to learn to live with wildland fire. The growing understanding and support for prescribed fire in the West is a good demonstration of stakeholders understanding their risk and being willing to accept some short-term risk for the longer term benefit.  

Read news story here

And check out pages 30-32 and pages 55-57 in the Cohesive Strategy about the management option of prescribed fire and the trade offs that must be accepted to see future results. 

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