Through active forest management, projects aim to restore forest health and aid in protecting communities.
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — As the first significant winter storm system of the season moves into Southern California, officials with San Bernardino National Forest are preparing to implement prescribed burning projects across the San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountain ranges. The first project, a pile burn culled from 40 acres of forest thinning, is scheduled for the morning of Thur., Nov. 28 behind the Mill Creek Visitor Center near Yucaipa, Calif. (Piles can be burned in rainy and snowy conditions.)
Large projects planned for this winter season include:
Angelus Oaks: 273 acres worth of pile and broadcast burning will occur to create defensible space around the community along Highway 38.
Bluff Mesa Meadow: This 250-acre meadow restoration project, south of Big Bear Lake, has already received hand treatment work and is slated for a broadcast burn in the spring.
Baldwin Lake: On the west side of Big Bear Valley, 742 acres of piles created by ongoing contract work to increase and maintain defensible space around homes and road systems are targeted for burning starting in December and into the spring.
Pine Cove: This 234-acre broadcast burn will maintain the Pine Cove Fuel Break around the community of Pine Cove, north of Idyllwild. The nearby Westridge Fuel Break helped firefighters stop the Cranston Fire along Idyllwild’s edge this past summer.
Thomas Mountain: A broadcast burn that continues prior efforts for ecological restoration and community defense within Garner Valley. This operation on over 1,000 acres of land, with burning targeted for 30 to 70 percent of it, may include the use of helicopter ignition for firefighter safety and effectiveness.
In addition to these large projects, pile burning may occur at several U.S. Forest Service fire stations, visitor centers, recreational areas and communication tower sites. Crews will also be out performing mechanical and hand thinning of other areas, which is the first step toward creating conditions safe for prescribed burning. Before burns, forest staff will notify the public and media via social media and news advisories.
The ignition of all prescribed burns is dependent on several environmental conditions (e.g. wind, humidity, temperature, etc), availability of fire personnel and equipment. The projects are conducted in coordination with the National Weather Service and South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) in order to manage smoke production and minimize impacts as much as possible.
Prescribed burning is an active forest management activity that helps restore ecological functions to the forest. Fire has a frequent natural role in some coniferous regions of San Bernardino National Forest. Caused naturally by lightning, fire has long maintained the health of forests, clearing brush on the forest floor and releasing seeds from pine cones, among other natural processes.
Aggressive firefighting and development within the forest over the past century has allowed fuels to unnaturally build up. That means an overabundance of flammable brush, which can enable wildfire in quickly spreading into the canopy and toward communities and infrastructure. Thinning forested areas helps protect those values.
Forest officials also highly encourage residents and business owners to do their part by creating defensible space around their structures, hardening those structures and planting native, fire-resistant landscaping. CAL FIRE has tips for all these steps at ReadyForWildfire.org.