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600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

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September 19, 2017
Contact: Matt Eberlein, (509) 429-4236

WDFW plans to conduct controlled burns
on two wildlife areas if conditions allow

EPHRATA – If conditions allow, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) plans to conduct controlled burns on two eastern Washington wildlife areas this fall to reduce wildfire risks and enhance wildlife habitat.

Those burns could begin as early as Oct. 9 on 300-plus acres of the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in Okanogan County and 200-plus acres of the Oak Creek Wildlife area in Yakima County.

However, the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will not issue the necessary permits until fall rain and cooler temperatures allow the agency to lift the current burn ban.

Jim Brown, WDFW northcentral regional director, said this year's wildfires demonstrate the need for controlled burning once those conditions are met.

"We need to reduce fuel loads in some of these areas to lower the risk of catastrophic uncontrolled wildfire," Brown said. 'It's not a question of whether we'll have fires on these lands, but rather the degree to which we can reduce the damage they cause."

After all the smoky air from this summer's wildfires, Brown acknowledged that controlled burns may not be welcome, especially by hunters participating in the many seasons opening in October.

"This is really short-term pain for long-term gain," he said. "There are larger considerations here than the inconvenience of smoky air."

Logging and tree thinning are also part of the process for managing wildlife areas to benefit wildlife habitat, he said.

"Deer hunting conditions improve as understory vegetation grows following a controlled, low-intensity fire," he said. "Deer love that new growth and will thrive on it for years to come."

WDFW Prescribed Fire Manager Matt Eberlein said the burn areas range from grasslands to ponderosa pine stands that have been thinned and currently contain logging debris and slash. The department posts signs to alert the public of burns and monitors those fires until they are extinguished.

No roads will be closed during the proposed burns, although there could be some short-term congestion on some primitive roads during burn operations, Eberlein said.

"We will be working to minimize smoke impacts," Eberlein said. 'Smoke could make its way down the valleys into town areas or temporarily cut visibility on roadways at night or early morning. Motorists should use caution and watch for personnel, fire equipment, and smoke on roads in the vicinity of the burns."

WDFW is coordinating with other agencies to provide assistance with the burns, and is using private contractors and equipment from local communities.

Maps showing the vicinity of the proposed burns are available at: