Once the spring storm door has closed somewhat and forest fuel moisture conditions are conducive to burning, the USDA Forest Service will begin understory burn operations (prescribed fire) throughout the Plumas National Forest (PNF). Firefighters have been burning piles throughout the winter. Specific underburn project locations and details are available at http://www.fs.usda.gov/plumas/ .
The Feather River Ranger District (RD) plans to conduct underburn operations in three general areas, including: Little Grass Valley Reservoir, Brush Creek, and the towns of Challenge, Forbestown, and Woodleaf. The planned Mount Hough RD underburn locations include areas near Twain, Keddie Ridge, Beardsley Grade, Mt. Hough, Deans Valley and Meadow Valley. The Beckwourth RD will be focused within the Dixie Valley area west of Frenchman Lake.
Prescribed fires reduce overgrown vegetation (surface fuels and small diameter trees) within the wildland urban interface (WUI), improving the ability of ground and aerial firefighting resources to quickly and safely extinguish wildfires in the area. These projects will also improve forest health by creating a more fire resilient landscape as a result of increasing water and nutrients to the remaining vegetation and by decreasing crowding that can contribute to the spread of a wildfire.
Each prescribed fire operation follows a specialized prescribed fire burn plan that considers temperature, humidity, wind, vegetation moisture, and smoke dispersal conditions. This information helps fuels planners decide when and where to burn.
The PNF coordinates closely with local county health departments and state air pollution control districts, monitoring weather conditions carefully prior to prescribed fire ignitions. Crews also conduct test burns before igniting larger areas, to verify how effectively fuels are consumed and where smoke will travel.
When conditions meet the burn prescription, state and local air pollution control districts issue a burn permit allowing operations to proceed. When prescribed fire operations are conducted, the PNF posts road signs around affected areas.
Smoke is generated by prescribed fire operations and may continue for several days after an ignition depending on the project size and environmental conditions. However, prescribed fire smoke is generally less intense and of much shorter duration than smoke created by an uncontrolled wildland fire.
Smoke sensitive individuals are encouraged to reduce their exposure by staying indoors if they are in a smoke affected area. Smoke management tips may be found at https://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=topics.smoke_events .
Questions about individual prescribed burn operations may be directed to respective Ranger District (RD) offices including: Feather River RD at (530) 534-6500, Mount Hough RD at (530) 283-0555 and Beckwourth RD at (530) 836-2575.
For more information about the Plumas National Forest visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/plumas and www.Facebook.com/usfsplumas.