A large number of prescribed burns are taking place in the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest this month.  

It's part of an ongoing project to keep the forest healthy by removing tree limbs, logs, and other forest debris that could potentially feed a wildfire.  

Forest Service spokesperson Robin DeMario says a group of travelers recently mistook a prescribed pile burn for a wildfire. 

"Up in Okanogan County in the Loup Loup Pass area, some folks saw the piles burning, and pulled off the road and tried to put the piles out, and were calling 9-1-1 and reporting "Wildfire", when in fact they were these piles that we had ignited as part of our fuels reduction project,” said DeMario.                                      

The Forest Service is reminding all visitors that pile burning is common and necessary to forest management. 

“We're just reminding folks that if they see what looks like a pile burning, either adjacent to the road or a trail, and it looks like that pile was intentionally put there and then ignited, that's part of our prescribed burning operation," DeMario said. 

In the past week, crews have been able to burn between 25-30 acres to 100 acres a day. 

Some areas east of Wenatchee and in the Entiat Ranger District are seeing a good deal of prescribed burns in the near term. 

Prescribed Burn activity 11-02-2023 Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest
Prescribed Burn activity 11-02-2023 Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest

Pile burning can be conducted in the rain and even the snow if conditions allow for ignition. 

The process of assembling the piles starts months earlier when crews gather forest debris into piles. The piles then sit in the forest drying out over the summer.  

Once the woody debris has cured out, crews return in the fall to ignite the piles. 

Most of these piles do not completely combust in one day.  

Some may smolder for days or even weeks, especially when piles contain large amounts of heavy fuels, like tree trunks. Forest personnel routinely patrol areas where prescribed burning occurs (this includes weekends).  

Although you may not see forest crews in the area, they are patrolling the prescribed burns.  

Local 9-1-1 dispatch centers are aware of the areas where prescribed burning operations occur.  

Please do not attempt to extinguish these burning piles.   

If you do see something that appears to be a wildfire burning across the landscape (and not individual piles burning), please contact 9-1-1. 

US Forest Service Public Lands Day

Get out your gloves and help the great outdoors!

Gallery Credit: Nicole Sherwood

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