Controlled burns send smoke aloft; more prescribed fires planned

Bureau of Land Management fire crews keep an eye on a wildfire, location and date unspecified | Stock photo, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Smoke and fire visible near a Dammeron Valley residential neighborhood Wednesday from a planned burn is an indicator that it’s that time of year when land managers begin to clear stored piles of dead trees, leaves and other woody materials.

During the coming months, fire crews from the Bureau of Land Management Color Country District and Utah’s Division of Forestry Fire and State Lands will burn slash piles on public lands in several areas around Southern Utah.  Before reporting smoke to local dispatches, residents are asked to check with resources (included at the end of this article) to see if it is the result of a controlled or prescribed burn.

Washington County

Slash burns are scheduled near Dammeron Valley in Washington County. The burns near Dammeron Valley will help complete efforts known as fuel breaks that may slow or stop potential wildfires from approaching the community. Once burning begins in Dammeron Valley, smoke may be seen from state Route 18.

Beaver County

Slash burns will take place along the Beaver River, south of Highway 21, two miles east of Minersville. Pile burns along the Beaver River were created from a project in 2016 that removed woody materials. The original project helped improve fish habitat and riparian areas. Smoke from piles along the river may be seen from Highway 21, Minersville, Minersville Reservoir and Interstate 15.

Arizona

Slash pile burns are also planned in the Kaibab National Forest on the North Kaibab Ranger District. Slash piles are accumulations of tree limbs, leaves, pine needles and other woody materials that are created naturally or by forest management activities like thinning, pruning or timber harvesting.

Approximately 75 acres of hand piles near the Arizona Department of Transportation maintenance yard north of Highway 89A about 1.5 miles north of the Jacob Lake Lodge on the North Kaibab Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest will be burned. There are nearly 1,000 acres of hand piles near Jacob Lake that are ready for burning, fire managers state.

These pile burns are among the prescribed fire projects that help lessen wildfire risk in communities by reducing hazardous fuels, BLM Color Country District Public Affairs Officer Christian Venhuizen said in a press release.

All agency-conducted prescribed fire projects are consistent with land and resource management plans, public health considerations and approved prescribed fire plans, Venhuizen added.

Fire crews will use a drip torch to ignite piles when appropriate weather conditions for each prescribed fire exist.

Smoke may reduce visibility along roads near the piles during and after ignition. While there are no road closures planned, motorists should be careful near any fire activity. Fire crews will monitor the burned piles until there is no perceived risk to other resources.

In the interest of safety, visitors are always reminded to use caution when traveling in the vicinity of prescribed fires, as firefighters, fire-related traffic and smoke may all be present.

For more information on BLM slash burns in Utah, contact Christian Venhuizen at (435) 994-9353 or Paul Briggs at (435) 865-3002. Concerned residents can also visit the BLM’s website or BLM/Utah on Facebook.

Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 to leave a message or question for the above individual. The FIRS is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Replies are provided during normal business hours.

For more information on slash burns in the Kaibab National Forest contact the following:

About the BLM

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation.

The BLM states that its mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

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