Prescribed burn near Walton Lake planned for next week

Prineville, ORE.— The Canyon 66 prescribed burn, which will treat just over 5,000 acres between Ochoco Ranger Station and Walton Lake, is tentatively planned to begin next Wednesday, September 4, pending favorable weather and fuels conditions.

Fire managers want to continue reminding the public about the project so residents, hunters, and other visitors can plan accordingly.

“We’re dedicated to carrying out this burn safely and effectively while adhering to all prescriptions and contingency plans,” said Lookout Mountain District Ranger Slater Turner. “The Canyon 66 burn will help make this landscape more resilient in the future by reducing hazardous fuels, and protecting nearby infrastructure and private property.”

The Lookout Mountain Ranger District of the Ochoco National Forest first attempted the treatment last fall, but called off the project because fuels were too dry. This year, fuels within the unit have been too wet and green to attempt the burn. Managers expect that with current hot weather, fuels within the Canyon 66 unit will dry enough by next week to adequately consume and meet prescription.

Preparation work that began last year continues this week. Workers prepared containment lines around the unit by removing brush, tree limbs, and other fuels, and digging hand lines in strategic places. Signs notifying the public of the planned activities are located around the unit. Drone reconnaissance is ongoing. Firefighters from Crook County Fire & Rescue, the Sunriver Fire Department, and the Redmond Fire Department will join Forest Service and BLM firefighters in staffing and implementing the project.

The resource objectives of the Canyon 66 prescribed burn are to reduce the future threat of catastrophic wildfire by removing dead and down woody debris and other hazardous fuels. The burn will also benefit livestock and big game habitat by consuming decadent stands of grass and brush to open up and improve forage and range conditions in coming years.

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. 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 to allow for public and fire fighter safety.

Smoke will impact nearby recreational facilities at Ochoco Forest Camp and Walton Lake during ignitions and for several days after. Fire managers will work to divert smoke away from residents using predicted winds, but smoke will be present and settle in adjacent communities overnight.

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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