SPOKANE – The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) will do controlled burns to restore habitat on the Oak Creek Wildlife Area in Yakima County starting as early as next week.
With cooler temperatures and higher humidity reducing wildfire danger, WDFW lifted fire restrictions on most department-managed lands on Oct. 1., allowing prescribed burns to move forward, dependent on weather conditions.
Matt Eberlein, WDFW Prescribed Fire Program Manager, says burn crews will be extremely cognizant of wildfire conditions. Fire activity will also be limited to areas with lower smoke impact to the public and communities, and take into consideration upcoming hunting seasons.
“Burning activities could continue into October but with the intent to be completed prior to the opening of modern firearm elk season,” Eberlein said.
The area to be burned is a total of 120 acres approximately 10 miles up the Oak Creek Road/drainage. Portions of the wildlife area may be closed during the controlled burns, and people may see smoke for a couple hours after the burns.
WDFW uses controlled burns to reduce uncharacteristic fuels that would otherwise burn hotter than they are adapted to withstand in wildfires. Prescribed fire also destroys invasive plants, improves wildlife habitat, and rejuvenates existing foliage.
“Fire is a natural part of both forest and grassland ecology and controlled fire can be an extremely effective tool for foresters,” said Eberlein.
This proactive work is part of the state’s 20-year Forest Health strategy and is intended to support the ability of the landscape to survive and thrive when wildfires occur.
WDFW lands are generally located between higher elevation federally managed forests and lower elevation populated areas, making their fire resilience critical for community safety in addition to the integrity of the forested habitats for fish and wildlife.
Signs warning wildlife area users will be posted in burn areas. Additional burns could be announced as fall progresses, depending on conditions.
WDFW actively manages approximately 1 million acres of land and over 500 water access sites across the state to preserve natural and cultural heritage, provide access for hunting, fishing, and wildlife-related recreation, and to foster experiences and exploration for thousands of Washingtonians and visitors each year.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is the state agency tasked with preserving, protecting and perpetuating fish, wildlife, and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing and hunting opportunities.