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Planned burns coming to Gorge

Fire managers at the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area are planning a set of prescribed burns over the next few months as the region cools down with early fall.

The Forest Service will conduct planned burns in the Courtney Road area east of Bingen from mid-September to mid-October as part of a larger effort to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires and improve forest health.

The day of burns will depend on humidity, wind speed and direction, and temperature and moisture levels in vegetation. The Forest Service will only burn on days the Washington State Smoke Management Office considers suitable so smoke will disperse properly.

“We wait for the right window of opportunity, and we only conduct burns when conditions allow for safe and successful outcomes,” said Loretta Duke, assistant fire management officer with the Scenic Area.

Prescribed burns are a proactive tool used by fire managers to reduce the threat of wildfire by removing overgrown vegetation. That excess growth is considered “fuel loads” by fire specialists, due to its tendency to easily spark and catch fire.

Ecologists also value planned burns for their ability to maintain and restore historic landscapes of the Gorge, where widely-spaced, large pine and oak trees were often dominant. Other benefits of prescribed burns include recycling nutrients that increase soil productivity, improving wildlife habitat and increasing the resiliency of the treated stands to the effects of wildfire.

Smoke may be visible on Washington State Route 14 and Interstate 84 at times during the duration of the burns. If necessary, drivers should reduce speeds and turn on headlights.

More details will be released when specific date(s) for burning have been decided. More information about the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is available at www.fs.usda.gov/crgnsa or social media updates at facebook.com/crgnsa and www.twitter.com/crgnsa.

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