LAKE TAHOE, Calif./Nev., Jan. 31, 2023 – Conditions and weather permitting, Tahoe Fire & Fuels Team (TFFT) members may continue prescribed fire operations this week at Lake Tahoe. The Nevada Division of Forestry is scheduled to burn hand piles near Incline Village. Smoke will be present. In addition, smoke may still be visible from the USDA Forest Service’s burn operations last week near Baldwin Beach. For current air quality, visit AirNow. View the project map with locations and details at Tahoe Living With Fire.
Prescribed fires are a vital forest management ecological tool used by land managers to help protect communities by removing excess vegetation (fuels) that can feed unwanted wildland fires. Burning excess vegetation also benefits forest health by making room for new growth which provides forage for wildlife, recycles nutrients back into the soil and helps reduce the spread of insects and disease in forests.
Winter typically brings cooler temperatures and precipitation, which are ideal for conducting prescribed fires. Each operation follows a specialized burn plan, which considers smoke dispersal conditions, temperature, humidity, wind, and vegetation moisture. All this information is used to decide when and where to burn.
Prescribed fire managers use different methods to reintroduce low-intensity fire into forests including pile, broadcast, and understory burning. Pile burning involves burning slash piles that are constructed by hand or mechanical equipment. Broadcast and understory burning use low-intensity fire across the ground to remove fuels under specific environmental conditions with fire confined to a predetermined area. Prescribed fires are meant to mimic naturally occurring fire, which is an essential part of many different ecosystems, and produces fire behavior and fire characteristics required to attain resource management objectives.
The TFFT strongly supports the use of prescribed burning in appropriate situations and works closely with air quality districts to avert smoke impacts on the public. Smoke from prescribed fire operations is normal and may continue for several days after an ignition depending on the project size, conditions, and weather. Prescribed fire smoke is generally less intense and of much shorter duration than smoke produced by unwanted wildfires. “If prescribed fire smoke were equivalent to lighting a match, then wildfire smoke would be like lighting a bonfire,” said Washoe County Air Quality Specialist, Brendan Schneider.
Prior to prescribed fire ignition, agencies: coordinate with local and state air quality agencies to monitor weather for favorable conditions that can disperse smoke; conduct test burns before igniting larger areas to verify how well vegetation is consumed and how smoke rises and disperses before proceeding; post signs on roadways in areas affected by prescribed fire operations; email notifications to the prescribed fire notification list; and update the local fire information line at 530-543-2816. The TFFT gives as much advance notice as possible before burning, but some operations may be conducted on short notice due to the small window of opportunity for implementing these projects.
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