Forest Service puts prescribed burns on hold to avoid smoke in communities

U.S. Forest Service photo

The U.S. Forest Service has paused all prescribed burns in Washington and Oregon, saying they don’t want to introduce smoke into communities that may be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Prescribed burns are used as a tool in preventing much larger wildfires during the summer.

“With this pause, we can better protect those who may also be in higher-risk groups for COVID-19, such as the elderly and those with underlying respiratory conditions,” said John Giller, director of fire and aviation management for the Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service.

There had been an aggressive prescribed burn plan for this spring in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

More than 9,600 acres were scheduled for burns, including almost 3,000 acres in Chelan County and about 5,000 acres in Okanogan County.

While the low-intensity burns are essential to the long-term health of forests, employee and public safety remains the top priority, the Forest Service said.

When the burns will resume is unclear, as with most things coronavirus.