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Prescribed fires planned at Crater Lake

Mail Tribune/file photo

If visitors to Crater Lake National Park see smoke in coming weeks and months, it’s likely because the park is conducting prescribed burns.

Park officials said prescribed fires will prepare park lands for the upcoming fire season. According to a news release, the thinning of small trees and brush and pile burning those materials with prescribed fire is commonly used by fire managers to improve forest health and wildlife habitat, and also provide defensive space around structures and escape routes in the event of a wildland fire at Oregon’s only national park.

“These techniques are a part of the National Park Service’s continued commitment to protecting park visitors and employees, as well as the park’s valued natural and cultural resources from wildland fire,” according to the release.

“Warmer temperatures, reduced snowpack, adequate humidity and favorable winds are improving the conditions needed for firefighters to start applying fire to strategically planned areas. Nearby residents and visitors may notice smoke or fire at Crater Lake National Park in various areas during the next few months.”

Officials note each prescribed fire can appear different visually depending on the forest type, fuel load, prescribed fire objectives, and how long fire has been absent from the area. The locations where prescribed fire operations will take place will be well signed and may have increased fire personnel, traffic and smoke in the area. People are asked to drive slowly in burn areas for public and firefighter safety.

Prescribed fires will occur on days when the Oregon Department of Forestry Smoke Management Office indicates there are suitable weather conditions for smoke dispersal. Following that approval, if overall fuel and weather conditions are favorable, firefighters ignite a test fire before moving forward with the prescribed fire. If the test fire indicates conditions are not suitable, the prescribed fire will be postponed until conditions improve.

Park officials stress that “all burning operations are monitored and patrolled frequently by fire professionals, to ensure public safety. The park will be burning piles of small-diameter trees and brush that have been cut to ensure safe and effective access and egress at the park, and to provide for defensive space around historic structures and critical infrastructure in the event of a wildland fire.”

Areas where visitors can anticipate fire crews and smoke in coming weeks and months include Highway 62 south of the park’s entrance station to the park’s southern boundary, Mazama Campground near Mazama Village, and the Steel Visitor Center-Park Headquarters complex in Munson Valley.