Wildland fire prevention work resumed Wednesday in the Ashland watershed with clearing of brush and other flammable materials. Prescribed burns will begin “as soon as it rains in earnest,” according to Ashland Fire & Rescue Forestry Division Chief Chris Chambers.
Thinning work around the Upper Bull Gap Trail in the Ashland Watershed will continue through the rest of the month. Trail users are asked to slow down. All trails remain open.
Crews will cut brush and other flammable materials or “fuel ladders” that would normally be burned away in a natural fire. These materials will be piled up to dry out and will eventually be burned. This process helps reduce the chance of catastrophic wildfire within the watershed, according to Chambers.
Spotters from Lomakatsi Restoration Project will help direct biker and hiker traffic.
Chambers said most of the work on the actual trail should be performed Monday, so there may be short delays.
The work performed by the Ashland Forest Resiliency Stewardship Project (AFR) helps restore healthy fire to the landscape, an important tool in forest preservation and wildfire prevention, Chambers said.
Besides thinning, AFR also implements controlled, or prescribed, burning. Chambers said there are 3,500 acres of burn piles to get through this year alone. These piles have accumulated from years past due to state limitations on prescribed burning.
He said although the fire season technically ended a few days ago, a fire started up on the California–Oregon border Wednesday which proves that it’s still too dry to begin the burns.
“It’s still dry enough to have wildfires out there and so we won’t be burning anytime soon unless we get substantial rainfall,” Chambers said.
Usually the prevention season for this work begins in November and lasts through July.
Chambers said AFR is focused on clearing U.S. Forest Service lands in addition to private land this year.
“One big push is to have this ‘all lands’ approach,” Chambers said. “When fire burns it doesn’t look at (specific) lands either, we need to be more cohesive in trying to do this kind of work.
“This is a useful effort to … ultimately reduce the smoke print of summer wildfires,” Chambers said.
To receive updates on controlled burns:
• For AFR Alerts, text WATERSHED in the message line to 888777;
• For emergency alerts, text 97520 in the message line to 888777;
• To reach the smoke and wildfire hotline, call 541-552-2490;
• For info on Facebook, go to (and like) facebook.com/AFR.Project;
• For info on Twitter, go to (and follow) twitter.com/ashlandforest; and
• Visit AFR’s Smoke and Health page at www.smokewiseashland.org.