While Central Oregonians struggle with a stay-at-home order and the widespread shutdown of businesses and facilities due to the COVID-19 outbreak, authorities are doing what they can to ensure everyone has clean air to breathe.
The Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests and Crooked River National Grassland have postponed all prescribed burns in the area in order to limit the negative health impacts of smoke inhalation.
“The safety and health of our communities is our highest priority. Potential smoke impacts to the public are considered in all prescribed fire and wildfire management,” according to a statement published on Central Oregon Fire Info, a website that contains fire information from several local agencies.
Forest officials use prescribed burns to limit undergrowth that could fuel out-of-control wildfires. The burns are controlled and can go on for several days, causing smoke to linger in some neighborhoods and towns for a day or more.
The decision to postpone pile burns was made to prevent a worsening of health conditions for those who are at risk in Central Oregon communities, according to the statement. Smoke can negatively impact the health of the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, the same group of people who are at the greatest risk of serious sickness from COVID-19.
The decision to postpone prescribed burns will also limit travel obligations for fire workers and help with social distancing for those who work together on the pile burns and managed fires.