SPOKANE -- The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is conducting controlled burns on parts of two wildlife areas in northeast Washington to reduce wildfire risks and enhance wildlife habitat.
WDFW crews have already begun a controlled burn in the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in Okanogan County. Depending on weather conditions, controlled burns also could be conducted as soon as April 1 in the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area in Ferry County.
Recent wildfires demonstrate the importance of controlled burns, said Tom Leuschen, WDFW wildlife area fuels manager. Burning off brush and other fuels help reduce the risk of high-intensity wildfires that destroy wildlife habitat and endanger human health and personal property.
"It's not a question of whether we'll have fires on these lands in the future, but rather the degree to which we can reduce the damage they cause while promoting a healthy forest for the future," Leuschen said.
The fires are permitted by the Washington Department of Natural Resources only when daily conditions are safe. The fires are monitored until they are out, Leuschen said.
The controlled burn in the Sinlahekin will cover 956 acres located more than two miles south of Loomis.
The Sherman Creek burn involves at least five areas, ranging from 13 to 170 acres between Highway 20 and Lake Roosevelt, south of Sherman Creek and west to just beyond the Inchelium Highway. If burns are completed on all Sherman Creek units, other units just north of Sherman Creek in the area of Sherman Homes and WDFW fish hatchery might also be burned.
WDFW works to minimize impacts of smoke from the burns, but Leuschen said some smoke could drift into nearby communities or temporarily cut visibility on highways at night or early morning.
"Motorists should use caution and watch for personnel, fire equipment, and smoke near the burns," Leuschen said.
WDFW is coordinating with other agencies in the area to provide assistance with the burn, and is using private contractors with bulldozers and other equipment from local communities.