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Prescribed burns under way; hazy smoke in Bend

By KTVZ.COM news sources
Published On: Dec 24 2013 11:28:38 AM CST
Updated On: Jan 17 2014 01:02:15 PM CST
BEND, Ore. -

Several prescribed burns are under way around the Deschutes National Forest this week, but at least some of the smoke blowing into Bend and turning skies hazy Tuesday may have been from another, private source, officials said.

Some private property pile-burning work was under way  near Vandevert Road or Thousand Trails, officials said.

Stiff winds from the south were blowing smoke into Bend, causing "moderate" air pollution levels (and short-term readings of "unhealthy for sensitive groups") in Bend, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality's Air Quality Index. Later Tuesday, Bend and Prineville reported "moderate" air quality, though the one-hour reading had improved to "good."

Forest Service spokeswoman Lauren Miller noted the agency moved its burn operations Monday "to reduce the potential for smoke impacts to Bend," but that some of the haze "could be some residual smoke from our operations."

Forest fuels specialists continued to work Tuesday on Wickiup Butte, 18 miles west of La Pine, near the Wickiup Reservoir Dam. 

About 100 acres within the 428-acre area were burned on Sept. 27 and another 148 acres were burned Monday. On Tuesday, they planned to burn an additional 110 acres.

They said the operations may create smoke impacts to the Haner Park, Ponderosa Estates, and Wild River subdivisions as well as along Burgess Road (FS Road 43) and FS Roads 44 and 4260. 

Plans to burn 123 acres in the Metolius Basin Research Natural Area, 1.5 miles northeast of the Camp Sherman store and 1 mile south of the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery, on the east side of FS Road 14, are still tentatively planned for Wednesday. 

Smoke from this operation may impact the Camp Sherman area, including the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery and the Allen Springs, Pioneer Ford and Lower Bridge campgrounds.

Plans to burn 81 acres near the Two Rivers North and Cascade Estates subdivisions and Highway 58, seven miles southwest of Crescent, also are still tentatively planned for Wednesday.  Smoke could impact these subdivisions as well as Highway 58 in the vicinity of milepost 80 and FS Road 5825.      

An additional 158 acres is planned about 10 miles northwest of La Pine, in the vicinity of Round Mountain.   Smoke from this prescribed fire may be seen from La Pine and Sunriver and could impact the Wildriver Estates subdivision and FS Roads 42, 4040, and 4250.

Plans to burn within the Lava Cast Forest, seven miles east of Sunriver and 12 miles southeast of Bend, near Company Butte and the intersection of China Hat Road (FS Road 18) and FS Road 1825 are still delayed due to smoke concerns. 

Meanwhile, fuels specialists with the Ochoco National Forest intend to begin burning approximately 100 acres per day in up to three separate areas beginning Wednesday.

Ignitions are expected to last 3 – 7 days, depending on conditions.  These projects are designed to remove hazardous fuels that could burn during summer wildfires. 

Fifteen miles northeast of Prineville, specialists plan to burn approximately 472 acres along Forest Rd 33 near Wildcat Campground.   Smoke is expected to travel into the Mill Creek Wilderness but could settle along Forest Rd 33.  Highway 26 will be monitored for smoke impacts.    

Concurrently, specialists also plan to burn approximately 400 acres 12 miles northeast of Post, OR and 6 miles south of Big Summit Prairie.  Smoke is expected to settle into the Highway 380 corridor and impact Forest Rd 4230.

If conditions remain conducive to prescribed fire, specialists also plan to burn up to 500 acres 15 miles south of Mitchell, OR and 2 miles east of Big Summit Prairie.  Smoke from this operation is expected to impact Forest Rd 30. 

No road closures are anticipated with these projects.  However, if smoke drifts on to local roads, motorists should slow down, turn on headlights, and proceed with care. 

Fuels specialists will follow policies outlined in the Oregon Department of Forestry smoke management plan, which governs prescribed burns, and attempts to minimize impacts to visibility and public health.  Once ignited, units are monitored and patrolled until they are declared out. 

For more information, visit the Ochoco/Deschutes website at www.fs.usda.gov/centraloregon  and follow the agency on twitter @CentralORFire.  Subsequent news releases and “tweets” will follow to provide updates on these potential operations.

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