Matt Eberlein, Prescribed Fire Manager, (509) 429-4236
Staci Lehman, Public Affairs, (509) 710-4511
SPOKANE- Annual prescribed fires on Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) lands in Eastern Washington are scheduled to start in October, as conditions allow. Prescribed fires, a WDFW forest management practice, on WDFW wildlife areas reduce the risk of future wildfires, reduce the severity of wildfires when they do happen, and improve habitat for wildlife.
With WDFW lands often located in critical mid-elevation locations close to communities, prescribed fire is particularly important to both protect wildlife habitat and public safety. It can be startling to see however.
“We understand that, coming out of such a severe fire season, seeing smoke or flames may raise attention, questions, and concerns for members of the public,” said WDFW prescribed fire manager Matt Eberlein. “Prescribed fires are monitored continuously until out, with public safety being a primary concern.”
Eberlein manages two prescribed fire teams that include five full-time foresters and 18 burn-team members. These teams conduct prescribed fires every spring and fall, as appropriate, on the one million acres of public lands that WDFW manages statewide.
While the results of prescribed burning include increased public safety, a more fire resilient landscape, and an improved experience for those who use public lands, we understand these fires can be an inconvenience while they are underway, particularly during hunting seasons. Unfortunately, there is a small window of time when prescribed burns can be conducted when the weather is cool but not too wet.
“The areas slated for prescribed fire in Eastern Washington encompass portions of wildlife areas, leaving hundreds of thousands more acres available for public access,” said Eberlein. “In the long-term, the work will preserve ecosystems and enable people to continue using public lands.”
With funding from the state’s 2021-2023 Capital Budget and grants, WDFW is planning to treat approximately 700 acres of Eastern Washington wildlife areas with prescribed fire by the end of 2021. Fires in the following areas will begin in October:
- Colockum Wildlife Area, Lilly Lake, 250 acres in Chelan County, 15 miles southeast of Wenatchee
- Methow Wildlife Area, Ramsey Creek, 248 acres in Okanogan County, 10 miles northeast of Winthrop
- Oak Creek Wildlife Area, Cougar Canyon, 120 acres in Yakima County, 10 miles west of Naches
- Oak Creek Wildlife Area, Oak Creek drainage, 90 acres in Yakima County, 15 miles west of Naches
Due to changing weather conditions, some of the burns may not occur. Additional burns on WDFW-managed eastern Washington lands could be announced if conditions allow. Signs are posted in advance of all prescribed fires to inform recreationists, but smoke and visibility can still be an issue.
“We work to minimize smoke but please watch for fire personnel or equipment and slow down if you experience reduced visibility while driving,” Eberlein said.
WDFW stewards over a million acres of public land in Washington, which are managed to protect lands and water for wildlife and people. WDFW works to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife, and ecosystems providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.