Prescribed burns underway in Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area will conduct prescribed burning in the eastern Gorge this fall and winter as part of an ongoing fire fuels management program that hopes 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.

Prescribed burning is a low-intensity fire used to clear ground vegetation and accumulated debris (known as “fuels”) from the forest understory.

Fuels management helps restore historic landscapes in the eastern Gorge, where widely-space forest made up of large oak and pine trees once dominated.

The fires also help recycle soil nutrients, improve wildlife habitat and biodiversity, and increase the resiliency of trees to the effects of wildfire.

“Since the 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.

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 from mid-September through January.

The day of ignition for the burns will be selected when factors such as humidity, wind speed and direction, temperature, and moisture levels in understory vegetation can help ensure a low-intensity, well-controlled fire.

Burns occur only on days approved by the Washington State Smoke Management Office, which looks for weather conditions that will aid in smoke dispersal to avoid air pollution in communities.

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