Why Prescribed Fire Matters

Why Prescribed Fire Matters: Healthier forests. Safer communities

Contributed by Pete Caligiuri – Forest Ecologist, The Nature Conservancy, Bob Madden – Deputy Chief of Fire Operations, Bend Fire, and Deana Wall – Fuels Program Manager, Deschutes National Forest

Hey Central Oregon: we’ve got a question for you – How many of you noticed smoke in the air last spring? Did you wonder why?

When the right balance of temperatures and moisture (not too hot, not too cold…not too wet, not too dry) that mark our Central Oregon spring and fall seasons, local prescribed fire professionals will be hard at work implementing carefully planned controlled burning all around Central Oregon.

Why prescribed fire, you ask?

Our low- and mid-elevation forests (we’re talking about the ponderosa pine forests around Sisters, Bend, Sunriver, LaPine) are adapted to, and in fact depend on, mild fire to remain healthy and resilient in the face of things like drought, bugs, and wildfires.

And that makes these controlled burns a good thing for us and for the forest. Our use of prescribed fire during the spring and fall means that all the plants and animals (and people) that depend on the forest for food, homes, livelihoods, and sense of place, have a healthier forest now and for future generations. It also means we can better protect our communities and all the things we care about in the forest from extreme wildfires.

2017 Prescribed Fire Season

All told, 4,910 acres of good fire was restored to our fire-adapted forests during the months of May and June 2017, including 2,030 acres that were completed during the two-week 2017 Central Oregon Prescribed Fire Training Exchange, or COTREX. COTREX is another example of Central Oregon leading the way within the Pacific Northwest, by opening our community and our forest to bring together prescribed fire professionals from across the United States, Spain, and Canada to share expertise and best practices for prescribed fire, all while conducting critical controlled burning to reduce the risk of extreme wildfire, keep our communities safer, and make our forests healthier.

We all know that our forests define who we are and drive our economy in Central Oregon. With that comes a responsibility to steward our forests, making them healthier and more resilient. So whether you live near the forest, play in the forest, work in the forest, or just enjoy the forest as the scenic backdrop for your life, we all count on a healthy, resilient forest.

And now the forest is counting on us. It’s up to all of us to be ambassadors for forest restoration, including prescribed burning in the spring and fall. And while we recognize that smoke from those controlled burns is an inconvenience, we also know it is a sign that essential restoration work is taking place, to make our communities safer and sustain the benefits forests provide to our way of life.

So, tell your neighbors, your family, your friends…heck, tell the person standing next to you in the grocery store checkout line:

“We are accepting some smoke now to make our forests healthier and our communities safer.”

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(c) 2023 Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project