Smoke may be visible this week at Tahoe from pile burning

Staff Report

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Smoke may be present this week as the Tahoe Fire & Fuels Team continues pile burning around Lake Tahoe, weather permitting.

The Tahoe Fire & Fuels Team said in a Monday news release that prescribed fire operations are expected to continue this spring, as conditions allow, to help land managers reduce hazardous fuels that can feed unwanted wildfires.

A map with project locations and details is available at Tahoe Living With Fire. To be added to the prescribed fire notification list, send a request to

The Nevada Division of Forestry will be burning about 20 acres of piles at Spooner Lake from Tuesday through Thursday.

The Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District will be burning about 20 acres of piles in Tahoe City through Saturday.

California State Parks will be burning 3 acres of piles at Burton Creek State Park in Tahoe City that is expected to last into next week.

The Tahoe Fire & Fuels Team is burning piles this week around Lake Tahoe.

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

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 wildland fires.

Prescribed fire managers use different methods to reintroduce low intensity fire in forests including pile and understory burning. Pile burning involves burning slash piles that are constructed by hand and mechanical equipment and is intended to remove excess fuels (branches, limbs, and stumps) that can feed unwanted wildfire. Understory burning uses low intensity fire on the ground to remove excess vegetation under specific environmental conditions with fire confined to a predetermined area. Understory burning produces fire behavior and fire characteristics required to attain planned fire and resource management objectives.

Prior to prescribed fire ignition, there is close coordination with local and state air quality agencies to monitor weather for favorable conditions that can disperse smoke. Crews conduct test burns before igniting a larger area to verify how well the vegetation is consumed along with how the smoke rises and disperses before proceeding.

Before burning, TFFT agencies post prescribed fire 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 maintained by the USDA Forest Service 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.

To learn more about living with fire, visit Tahoe Living With Fire

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