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October 25, 2012
Fireproofing with flames
MCKENZIE BRIDGE, Oregon (STPNS) -- MCKENZIE BRIDGE: Sometime in the next few weeks, as weather conditions permit, personnel from the McKenzie River Ranger District will begin to burn the slash piles along Highways 126 and 242. The piles are part of a hazardous fuels reduction project designed to make the area more defensible and safer in the event of a wildfire.
Cutting low-lying brush, limbs and small trees (under-story vegetation), increases the distance between fuels at or near the ground and the upper parts of the tree canopies. This makes wildfires easier to manage because the fire is less likely to climb from the ground up into the treetops. Once a fire is raging through the tree canopy, fire suppression becomes much more difficult and dangerous.
Over the past two years, McKenzie River Ranger District personnel have cut, piled, or chipped brush and conifer trees (less than seven inches in diameter) within approximately 150 feet of the two highways. They also cut and piled small trees and brush near private land in the McKenzie Bridge area.
Details on the work, and its anticipated impacts, is discussed in several different documents (called ‘environmental assessments’ EAs or ‘categorical exclusions’, CEs): these include the Highway Corridor Fuels Reduction CE, Horse Creek EA, Bridge Thin EA, Highway 242 Danger Tree Removal CE and Goose EA.
“Burning these piles will complement the work that Oregon Department of Forestry has done on privately-owned land to reduce hazardous fuels,” said Brenda Hallmark, Assistant Fire Management Officer for the McKenzie River Ranger District.
The slash piles stretch six miles up Highway 126 - beginning at milepost 51 and continuing up Highway 242 to the Limberlost Campground. Crews will not burn all the piles at once. Fire managers have covered piles with protective plastic so they will ignite and burn quickly, to minimize the smoke generated. When possible, the protective plastic will be removed prior to burning. On the day of the actual burn, signs will be posted along the highway notifying drivers.
“Every year, we burn piles on the McKenzie River Ranger District,” said Hallmark. “What’s different this year is that so many are visible along major travel routes. We will work as carefully as possible to mitigate the smoke impacts.”
For more information on the hazardous fuels project, contact the McKenzie River Ranger District at 541-822-3381. For information on fuel reduction on private land, contact the Oregon Department of Forestry in Springfield at 541-726-3588.
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