Piles of wood ready to go up in smoke | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Piles of wood ready to go up in smoke

Wood piled by the U.S. Forest Service along Pioneer Trail may be burned starting this week if winds are calm.

Such controlled burns are the final step of a process to decrease wildfire danger at Lake Tahoe Basin. Areas along Pioneer and on the East Shore along Highway 28 top a burn list that contains 2,000 acres of slashed wood piles.

So far this fall has been dry, which limits the burning that can be accomplished. But fire officials said they hope to get 1,000 acres of that wood burned before heavy snow falls and controlled fires become too difficult.

If burning does start today, the Forest Service plans to target piles near Susquehana Drive and Jicarilla Drive, roads off Pioneer.

“Here we are in the middle of October and we haven’t gotten a drop of rain,” said Kit Bailey, fire management officer at the basin. “We’ll do what we can right now.”

Fall, not spring, is the best time to burn piles of slash because they are at their driest and produce less smoke, said Rex Norman, Forest Service spokesman.

Signs will be posted at burn sites to let people know there is no need to report the fire. Two attack engines and a 10-person crew will conduct the burns. Fires may appear unattended but the Forest Service will monitor piles as they smolder out.

The agency tries to limit the amount of burning that needs to be done by chipping as much of the wood as possible. The Forest Service also only burns during small windows of time in the spring and fall when air pollution control districts say it is OK.

“We understand that even relatively small prescribed fire activities can result in smoke, and that this can be an inconvenience,” said Dave Marlow, vegetation, fire and fuels management officer. “We ask for the public’s understanding with the short-term effects of prescribed fire smoke for the long-term benefits it will bring in community fire safety and forest health.”

The Forest Service was able to burn 400 acres of slash pile last fall and spring. To reach an up-to-date recording that reports the location of burn sites, call (530) 573-2707. Specific questions about the planned pile burning can be answered by Mark Johnson, fuel management specialist at (530) 573-2658. Controlled burn information will soon be available on the Web at http://www.r5.fs.fed.us/ltbmu.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com

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