The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved Washington State’s smoke management plan, allowing for more planning time and a longer burning season for controlled burns to prevent wildfires.
“As wildfires become more frequent and severe, particularly here in the Northwest, we are working closely with our local, state, tribal and federal partners to help prevent, prepare for and mitigate those risks and impacts,” said Casey Sixkiller, regional administrator of EPA’s Region 10 office in Seattle. “By increasing the flexibility in the tools and timing for prescribed burning, we can better prevent and reduce the health impacts of smoke from wildfires on our communities.”
State officials said this approval would allow the state to do more difficult-to-achieve burns. This spring, the state burned 585 acres of state lands and surrounding areas in four prescribed burns administered by the Washington Department of Natural Resources. Six more burns are planned for Washington this fall.
“Prescribed burning is a critical component of DNR’s continued forest health work,” Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said. “Using ‘good fire’ to remove potential fuels safely and efficiently makes our forests and grasslands healthier and less susceptible to the explosive wildfires that have filled Washington’s summer skies with smoke the last decade. With this plan, we’ll be able to do the work we need to keep our skies and lungs clear.”
Under the state’s old smoke management plan, fire officials had to decide if weather conditions were OK for their burn on the scheduled morning. This meant officials only had a few hours of lead time to begin or cancel, which made larger burns difficult. The new plan will allow the state to use meteorological forecasts to decide if the burn can go on certain days.
This will result in the state canceling burns and letting them have bigger burns. The plan is still set up to help mitigate air quality impacts by the burns.
State officials will also be allowed to burn on weekends, which previously had not been allowed.
For more information on prescribed burns, restrictions and permits in Washington state, visit the Department of Natural Resources Burn Portal at: https://burnportal.dnr.wa.gov/.
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