Forest Service to conduct understory burn near South Lake Tahoe

Submitted to the Tribune
A fire information booth will be onsite at the prescribed burn.
Provided / LTBMU

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – The Tahoe Fire & Fuels Team is scheduled to continue prescribed fire operations this week at Lake Tahoe. Conditions and weather permitting, the USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit is planning to conduct an understory burn on 13 acres near the east side of Pioneer Trail between Jicarilla Drive and Golden Bear Trail on Wednesday, June 28, 2023.

Forest Service fire prevention staff and partners will be onsite answering questions on Wednesday from 9-4:30 p.m. on Pioneer Trail across from Jicarilla Drive. Prescribed fire ignitions typically begin at 10 a.m. and smoke will be present. For current air quality and smoke information, visit AirNow. View the project map with locations and details at Tahoe Living With Fire.

Prescribed fire managers use different methods to remove excess vegetation and reintroduce low-intensity fire into forests including pile, broadcast, and understory burning. Pile burning involves burning slash piles that are constructed by hand or mechanical equipment. Broadcast and understory burning use low-intensity fire across the ground to remove fuels under specific environmental conditions with fire confined to a predetermined area. Prescribed fires are meant to mimic naturally occurring fire, which is an essential part of many different ecosystems, and produces fire behavior and fire characteristics required to attain resource management objectives.

Prescribed fires are a vital forest management tool used by land managers to help protect communities by removing excess vegetation (fuels) that can feed unwanted wildland fires. Burning excess vegetation also benefits forest health by making room for new growth which provides forage for wildlife, recycles nutrients back into the soil and helps reduce the spread of insects and disease.

Spring typically experiences cooler temperatures and precipitation, which are ideal for conducting prescribed fires. Each operation follows a specialized burn plan, which considers smoke dispersal conditions, temperature, humidity, wind, and vegetation moisture. All this information is used to decide when and where to burn. 

The TFFT strongly supports the use of prescribed burning in appropriate situations and works closely with air quality districts to avert smoke impacts on the public. Smoke from prescribed fire operations is normal and may continue for several days after an ignition depending on the project size, conditions, and weather. Prescribed fire smoke is generally less intense and of much shorter duration than smoke produced by unwanted wildfires.

Prior to prescribed fire ignition, agencies: coordinate with local and state air quality agencies to monitor weather for favorable conditions that can disperse smoke; conduct test burns before igniting larger areas to verify how well vegetation is consumed and how smoke rises and disperses before proceeding; post signs on roadways in areas affected by prescribed fire operations; email notifications to the prescribed fire notification list; and update the local fire information line at 530-543-2816. The TFFT gives as much advance notice as possible before burning, but some operations may be conducted on short notice due to the small window of opportunity for implementing these projects. 

To be added to the prescribed fire notification list, send an email request to

Visit, Tahoe Living With Fire to get prepared, get informed, and get involved.

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