Firefighters accomplished ignition of approximately 2,800 acres of the 5,072 acre Canyon 66 prescribed burn unit yesterday, about 30 miles east of Prineville on the Ochoco National Forest. With positive results of a test fire at 11 am this morning, firefighters are moving ahead with ignitions today.
Temporary road closures are in effect today for public and firefighter safety. Forest Service Road 22, between the junctions with Forest Roads 42 and 2210, will be closed until ignitions are completed and safe travel can be ensured. Forest Roads 2610 and 300 are also closed within the operational area. An alternative route for access to Walton Lake is Forest Road 4210, east of Round Mountain. Road guards are stationed to assist forest visitors with travel and safety information.
Smoke settled into low areas early this morning and began to clear as the inversion lifted around 1030 am. A spot weather forecast for the burn area indicates good lift and light northerly winds will help disperse smoke throughout the day. Similar smoke conditions can be expected tomorrow morning, with slightly stronger winds helping dispersal midday. Thunderstorms predicted to occur tomorrow have the potential to accelerate smoke dispersal from the unit and local communities.
Much of the northern aspects and higher elevations of the unit burned yesterday and through the night. Ignitions today will primarily draw fire down south-facing slopes in open stands of pine. Firefighters on the ground use drip torches to carefully burn a wide buffer along the unit’s boundary. An aerial ignition device placed in a helicopter then ignites the unit’s interior. The majority of firefighters participating in the burn operation are assigned to holding fire within unit boundaries and suppressing “hot spots” that may burn too intensely.
Firefighters are burning within prescribed fuel and weather conditions, ensuring low to moderate severity. Accumulations of heavy fuel are being reduced, creating a patchy mosaic. This is similar to the beneficial effects of natural fire under historic conditions. Improved forage and habitat conditions can be expected to benefit livestock and wildlife in coming years as a result.