The Deschutes National Forest conducted its final prescribed burn for spring Wednesday, with a burn northeast of La Pine that served as part of a training program for firefighters.

Fuels specialists and fire crews burned small trees and brush on the ground in approximately 20 to 50 acres along Forest Road 21, northeast of La Pine and east of U.S. Highway 97. Ignitions were completed in one day.

The primary purpose of the burn was to train firefighters within a controlled environment, but the burn also met ecosystem objectives. Prescribed fires are conducted to reduce fuel loads that if left untreated can burn out of control during a wildfire.

Smoke from the burn may linger in the area for up to a week, but the smoke impact is expected to be minimal to nearby communities.

The burn wrapped up a busy season for local fuels specialists. In total, prescribed burns were applied to 4,478 acres of the forest in 37 separate locations, according to Jean Nelson-Dean, a spokesperson for the Deschutes National Forest. Of this area, 332 acres were on non-Forest Service lands.

Nelson-Dean said the prescribed burns will help to fight potential wildfire, and protect homes and community infrastructure. The prescribed burns also help forests recover more quickly if a wildfire does pass through.

With the prescribed fire season over, does smoke indicate an actual wildfire is active? Not necessarily, said Nelson-Dean. Smoke could indicate field burning. People interested in updates on prescribed burns and wildfires in Deschutes County can text “COFIRE” to 888-777.

When wildfire does occur, it is simply part of a natural cycle for Central Oregon forests.

“Central Oregon has a fire-adapted ecosystem, which means that fire and smoke are a part of maintaining a healthy forest here,” said Nelson-Dean. “Just like Western Oregon forests require rain to be healthy, Central Oregon forests require fire, which we do our best to use in a controlled manner under the best conditions to move smoke up and out of the area.”

Reporter: 541-617-7818, mkohn@bendbulletin.com

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