Prescribed fires will burn through weekend | SierraSun.com

Prescribed fires will burn through weekend

Nick Cruit
Sierra Sun

Nick Cruit/Sierra SunFirefighters manage the prescribed burn Friday.

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit of the U.S. Forest Service will be conducting a prescribed burn five miles north of Tahoe City through the weekend.

The project will treat 115 acres of forest near Mount Watson, and is meant to reintroduce low-intensity fire to the forest floor.

The project area was previously treated to reduce unnatural density and hazardous fuels by burning large piles of vegetation, a fuels reduction program usually associated with large amounts of smoke.

“This will be a low-intensity burn,” said Rex Norman, U.S. Forest Service spokesman, “a slow creep along the [forest] floor.”

Burning pine needles and brush that accumulates on the forest floor is a process that mimics historic low-intensity fires that developed the forests over the past 10,000 to 13,000 years.

“These fires encourage very rapidly the regeneration of plants,” says Norman. “Forests have literally become dependent on light fire”

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Light prescribed fires enhance forest health and have significant habitat improvement benefits, said Norman. The burns also allow native, fire-tolerant plant species to flourish.

“Fire keeps nutrient cycles running,” said Norman “understory plants native to mid and lower elevations are resilient to fire and they benefit from low-intensity fire.”

Residents and travelers can expect a moderate amount of smoke from the fire project areas, especially early in the morning when winds are stagnant.

Favorable weather expected throughout the weekend will help lift smoke out of the area.

Prescribed fires will be put on hold in the event wet conditions prevent burning or low winds do not provide dispersion of smoke and oxygen for the fires.

“Fire managers feel we will have good conditions” said Norman. “The project expects to run through the weekend.”

A full crew of fire fighters will be maintaining the fires throughout the project’s duration.