Deschutes County has asked the state to consider increasing the amount of smoke allowed in the air during prescribed fire burns.
At first, it might sound a little backward: Deschutes County wants to allow more smoke in the air as a means to prevent disastrous wildfires. The county has asked Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality to allow higher concentrations of smoke in the air during prescribed burns. Forest managers use prescribed burns to eliminate fuel in areas that haven’t seen fire in a long time, which helps prevent catastrophic wildfires down the road.
Deschutes County Commissioner Tony DeBone says that in the past, some prescribed burns have been cancelled due to smoke levels.
“It’s a real shame because then we get a little gun-shy to even have a prescribed burn when this is one of the most important things we can really do to clean up the wildland-urban interface around our areas where people live,” says DeBone.
The Oregon DEQ has not yet issued a decision about the request, but responded to the county in August along with the and Department of Forestry. The two agencies promised to convene a meeting in Bend this fall to discuss the issue with the county.