ashland.news
December 10, 2023

KS Wild Side: ‘Tis the Season for Prescribed Fire

A drip torch is used to intentionally set fires during prescribed burns. Rogue Valley Prescribed Burn Association photo
January 9, 2023

Prescribed fire can help prevent destructive wildfire

By Alexi Lovechio

Now that the winter rains and cooler weather have set in, it is safe to say that the wildfire season has officially come to an end in the Klamath-Siskiyou.

The Ashland foothills are now covered with a light dusting of snow and frost. It’s the time of year when you may notice small columns of smoke in the Ashland watershed on a cold wet morning, or maybe you’re receiving non-emergency prescribed burn notifications on your phone. You may ask yourself, “What is prescribed burning? What’s with the smoke in the watershed?”

Prescribed fires are also known as controlled burns. This is the practice of intentionally setting fire by an expert team under identified weather conditions to restore fire-dependent ecosystems. A goal of using prescribed fire is to remove fine fuels in a forest such as dead grass, fallen tree branches, and thick undergrowth. 

By removing the fine fuels, a prescribed fire can help prevent a destructive wildfire because there is less material to burn and carry flames into the tree’s crown. Fire also rejuvenates a forest. It returns nutrients to the soil and creates habitat for wildlife. After a fire, the additional sunlight and open space in a forest can help young trees and other plants start to grow.

Prescribed burns help maintain the understory of forests by removing accumulated vegetation. Alexi Lovechio photo

Native tribes have used cultural fire for millenia, and while cultural burns and prescribed fire can have similar results, they are not the same thing. Cultural fire is sacred to many tribes across the planet and is used to cultivate specific species and conditions. For more information about tribal fire in the Klamath Mountains, check out the Karuk Tribe website

Fire suppression efforts have grown over the last century, making prescribed fire an important ecological tool. Historically, smaller fires occurred in forests throughout the Klamath-Siskiyou at regular intervals. When these fires are suppressed — and when cultural fires were banned — flammable materials accumulate, and forests become more crowded with small trees and underbrush. Prescribed fire seeks to accomplish the benefits that regular fires historically provided while preventing the fires from burning out of control and threatening our communities. 

The Ashland community is contiguous with the foothills surrounding the valley. Many people live in the wildland-urban interface, a zone of transition from forests to urban development. Prescribed fire is one way to prepare the forests around our community for the upcoming wildfire season. The more controlled burns taking place now during the cool wet months, the more prepared our community and forests will be during the hot and dry wildfire season. 

Living in a fire-prone area can be scary. We have witnessed destructive wildfires that have left our communities changed forever. The good news is there are actions we can take to prepare our communities for it. Wildfire is natural and inevitable; we can’t avoid it, but we can learn to thrive with fire. We can learn from Indigenous communities who have been working with fire from time immemorial. We can use prescribed fire as a way to manage and prepare our forests and keep dangerous flames away from our homes and communities. 

Check out KS Wild’s new podcast, One Foot in the Black, to learn more about fire in the Klamath-Siskiyou.

To learn more and stay informed about the prescribed fires happening in the Ashland watershed, check out the  Ashland Forest Resiliency Project (AFR.) AFR is a team of forest and fire professionals designed to reduce the risk of severe wildfire in the watershed, and to protect water quality, older forests, wildlife, people, property, and quality of life.

To continue learning about fire in the Klamath-Siskiyou, check out KS Wild’s newly released podcast, One Foot in the Black, which explores the root causes and solutions to living with wildfire in the era of climate change. The podcast tells the story of fire in the West — how the landscape has been shaped by fire, how climate change is remaking the rules, and how our future of living with fire is tied to the past. 

KS Wild Side appears every month and features a staff member from KS Wild, a regional conservation organization based in Ashland. Alexi Lovechio is the Forest and Climate Coordinator for KS Wild and works to connect communities with educational and practical wildfire resources to help build a fire-smart community in the Klamath-Siskiyou. For more information go to www.kswild.org

Ryan

Ryan

Related Posts...

Stewart Udall

KS Wild Side: A focus on environmentalists in action

KS Wild Side: The Fall Film Series will showcase two films that explore the origins of environmental activism from a policy standpoint and from a front-line advocate’s standpoint: “Stewart Udall: The Politics of Beauty” and “Sisters in Arms,” which features Julia Butterfly Hill.

Read More »

KS Wild Side: Come join the Wild Side

KS Wild: Whether you’ve recently moved to the Rogue Valley and are looking to build community or you’re a local interested in becoming an active advocate for the region’s wild nature, there is a place for you at KS Wild.

Read More »

Latest posts

Dine-out demonstration planned Monday on Ashland Plaza

Frustrated at having to host free community meals outdoors instead of inside Pioneer Hall as in past years, organizers of the free meals are inviting others unhappy that those who need the free food have no alternative but to eat outdoors in the cold to join in a demonstration of solidarity by dining together outside Monday afternoon, Dec. 11.

Read More >

Obituary: Margaret McCartney

Obituary: Margaret McCartney died Dec. 4 at 83. Memorial services are planned for 11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 11, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 44 N. 2nd St., Ashland.

Read More >

Explore More...

Dine-out demonstration planned Monday on Ashland Plaza

Frustrated at having to host free community meals outdoors instead of inside Pioneer Hall as in past years, organizers of the free meals are inviting others unhappy that those who need the free food have no alternative but to eat outdoors in the cold to join in a demonstration of solidarity by dining together outside Monday afternoon, Dec. 11.

Read More>

Obituary: Margaret McCartney

Obituary: Margaret McCartney died Dec. 4 at 83. Memorial services are planned for 11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 11, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 44 N. 2nd St., Ashland.

Read More>
ashland.news logo

Subscribe to the newsletter and get local news sent directly to your inbox.

(It’s free)

Don't Miss Our Top Stories

Get our newsletter delivered to your inbox three times a week.
It’s FREE and you can cancel anytime.

NewsMatch is here! For a limited time, your donation to Ashland.news will be DOUBLED.