Prescribed burn near Walton Lake planned for September

Following recent storms that brought substantial precipitation to the Ochoco National Forest, fire managers are once again planning for the Canyon 66 prescribed burn, located about 20 miles east of Prineville between Ochoco Ranger Station and Walton Lake.

Fuels within the unit are currently too green and wet to adequately consume, but managers are hopeful they will cure enough over the coming weeks for successful completion of the project.

The burn is tentatively planned for the second week of September pending favorable weather conditions, which would occur during the archery deer season. More information about exact days for the burning operation, weather, and expected smoke impacts will be provided closer to date. The Forest Service wants to provide early public notice of the prescribed burn so residents, hunters, and other visitors can plan around it.

The unit is approximately 5,076 acres, following Forest Service Road 22 from Ochoco Ranger Station northeast to its junction with Forest Service Road 2210, just south of Walton Lake (see attached map). The use of low intensity, prescribed fire in this area is intended to reduce hazardous fuels by removing dead and down woody debris, and improve habitat for big game and livestock. Fire managers first attempted the Canyon 66 prescribed burn in the fall of 2018, but the burn never took place because the right weather conditions didn’t occur. Preparation work, which included the construction of containment lines, brush removal and delimbing trees around the perimeter, has already taken place.

Ignitions for the Canyon 66 prescribed burn are expected to last two to three days. The interior will be burned using aerial ignition devices delivered from a helicopter. Smoke may impact recreational facilities at Ochoco Forest Camp and Walton Lake during ignitions and for several days after. Forest Service Road 22 will remain open to public travel, but all roads within the unit and some nearby dispersed camping sites will temporarily close during burn operations. Closed areas will be signed on the ground prior to burning operations.

Prescribed burning is a proactive approach to fire management, reintroducing fire in a manner that reduces hazardous fuels, improves range and forest health, and benefits the fire-adapted ecosystem. Prescribed burning can be strategically located across the landscape, is carefully managed to meet resource and smoke management objectives, and incorporates consideration for sensitive resources. Unplanned wildfires generally do not afford such benefits, burn with high intensity, and often require costly suppression efforts.

The Ochoco National Forest’s prescribed fire program has been utilizing aerial ignitions, in which incendiary balls are dropped from a helicopter, to accomplish larger, landscape-level burns. This method is cost-effective and helps to consume dense pockets of fuel while restoring lower intensity fire across the majority of the landscape. The Canyon 66 prescribed burn builds on a series of prior forest thinning and prescribed fire treatments throughout the area to restore a more open, resilient forest condition.

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