To reduce wildfire hazards and restore historic landscapes, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area will conduct prescribed burning in the eastern Gorge this fall and winter.
This year’s activities will focus on select areas in Klickitat County, east of Bingen and White Salmon, generally between Courtney Road and Tracy Hill.
Both underburns and pile burning are planned between mid-September to January, as part of an ongoing fire fuels management program to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires and improve forest health.
“We’re coming into a weather window – which means temperatures, humidity, and ground moisture are just right for successfully burning while still maintaining control of the fire,” said Roland Rose, a fire fuels planner with the national scenic area.
The actual day of ignition for the burns will be selected when factors such as humidity, wind speed and direction, temperature and moisture levels of understory vegetation help ensure a low intensity, well-controlled fire. Burns only occur on days when the Washington State Smoke Management Office approves that weather conditions will aid in smoke dispersal.
“Since Eagle Creek Fire, there’s increased awareness about the importance of tools such as prescribed fire for managing fuels in wildland-urban interface areas such as the Gorge,” said Bart Kicklighter, fire management officer for the national scenic area.
Prescribed burning is a low-intensity fire used by fire managers to clear ground vegetation and accumulated woody debris (known as “fuels”) from the forest understory. Fuels management also helps restore historic landscapes in eastern Gorge, where widely-space forest made up of large oak and pine trees once dominated. Prescribed burns also help recycle soil nutrients, improve wildlife habitat and biodiversity, and increase the resiliency of the treated stands to the effects of wildfire.
Smoke may be visible on Washington State Route 14 and Interstate 84 at times during the burns. When smoke is present, motorists should reduce speeds and turn on headlights.
Those with asthma can request to be on a special call list for advance notifications by contacting the National Scenic Area office at 541-308-1700.