OCTOBER 11, 2018: AGENCIES TO BEGIN LAKE TAHOE FALL PRESCRIBED FIRE PROGRAM

The Lake Tahoe Basin Fall Prescribed Fire Program will begin as early as this week under the management of the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team, which includes local, state and federal fire and land management agencies. Weather and conditions permitting, California State Parks and the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) may begin prescribed fire operations in Angora Highlands, near Heavenly Mountain Resort, in Tahoma near Rubicon Bay and in Burton Creek, D.L. Bliss and Sugar Pine Point state parks. Smoke will likely be present. A map with project locations and details is available for viewing at http://www.tahoefft.org. To receive prescribed fire notifications, send an email to pa_ltbmu@fs.fed.us.

“The health and resiliency of Tahoe Basin forests are dependent on the natural process of frequent, low intensity fire, which provides important benefits to forest and meadow habitat,” said Acting LTBMU Fuels Specialist, Tod Flowers. “By reintroducing fire onto the landscape, we provide essential habitat for diverse plant and animal species as well as community protection by removing excess vegetation that can feed unwanted wildfires.”

Prescribed fire managers use different methods to reintroduce fire back into our forests that include pile burning and understory burning. Pile burning is intended to remove excess fuels (branches, limbs and stumps) that can feed unwanted wildfires and involves burning slash piles that are constructed by hand and mechanical equipment. Understory burning is low intensity prescribed fire that takes place on the ground (the understory) rather than pile burning. Understory burning uses a controlled application of fire to remove excess vegetation under specific environmental conditions that allow fire to be confined to a predetermined area. Understory burning produces fire behavior and fire characteristics required to attain planned fire and resource management objectives.

Fall and winter bring cooler temperatures and precipitation, which are ideal for conducting prescribed fire operations. Each operation follows a specialized prescribed fire burn plan, which considers temperature, humidity, wind, moisture of the vegetation, and conditions for the dispersal of smoke. This information is used to decide when and where to burn.

Smoke from prescribed fire operations is normal and may continue for several days after an ignition depending on the project size and environmental conditions. Prescribed fire smoke is generally less intense and of much shorter duration than smoke produced by wildland fires.

“We are sensitive to the fact that smoke has an impact on the public, especially those with respiratory conditions and allergies and we make every effort to conduct prescribed fire operations during weather patterns that carry smoke out of the Basin,” said Flowers. “This past summer’s wildfires around California and Nevada reminded us of the importance of removing excess vegetation through forest thinning and prescribed fire operations and that smoke produced during a prescribed fire is much less intense and of much shorter duration than that of an unwanted wildfire.”

Agencies coordinate closely with local county and state air pollution control districts and monitor weather conditions carefully prior to prescribed fire ignitions. They wait for favorable conditions that will carry smoke up and disperse it away from smoke sensitive areas. Crews also conduct test burns before igniting a larger area, to verify how effectively materials are consumed and how smoke will travel.

Before prescribed fire operations are conducted, agencies post road signs around areas affected by prescribed fire, send email notifications and update the local fire information line maintained by the LTBMU 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 conducting these operations.

Please keep in mind that residential burning on private property in the Tahoe Basin is still suspended. For information about private land fire restrictions in California, which are regulated by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CALFIRE), visit http://www.calfire.ca.gov. For information about private land fire restrictions in Nevada, which are regulated by North Lake Tahoe and Tahoe Douglas fire protection districts, visit http://www.tahoefire.org/ or http://www.nltfpd.net/.