Smoke filled the skies over Shasta Lake Monday, in one of that area's first prescribed burns of the year. It’s an ongoing effort to reduce wildfire fuels now, that could cause trouble later.
When a wildfire breaks out, it happens suddenly and crews react quickly. But a prescribed burn is just the opposite, it's meticulously planned.
Smoke filled skies over Packers Bay mean years of planning have finally come to fruition.
“It’s very common to have no less than three years of planning into the process in order to actually be to the point where we can conduct a prescribed fire,” said Jason Fallon, a Fuels Management Specialist with the U.S. Forest Service.
Environmental and federal regulations meticulously dictate how a burn is conducted in a national forest.
“We do it for a number of reasons, one of those reasons is hazardous fuels reduction in order to protect the communities around here,” said Fallon.
This time, the plan calls for 600 acres to burn. A mainly wooded area, the ground is covered in leaves and pine needles, prime fuel for fires.
Crews clear fuels around larger trees to protect them from the flames.
“They have done a lot of preparation work for today and that should save all of our larger trees, our benches, your wooden signs,” said Andrea Capps with the U.S. Forest Service.
A combination of diesel and gasoline is ignites the burn, but the fuels, dry from mostly rain-less January, burn quickly on their own.
“We do our prescribed burns this time or year in order to facilitate basically a good time that we can control the conditions as best as possible,” said Fallon.
Work like this has proven its worth before, the Lake Fire burned near this area in October, but it didn't get far.
“It basically died out, that fire only got to 10 acres because it was such a dramatic fuel break when it hit that line,” said Capps.
A situation like that is precisely why controlled burns are such a useful fire management tool.
Crews will be conducting controlled burns similar to Monday’s throughout the week in the Packers Bay area, and also at Whiskeytown.
If you see smoke, crews ask that you not call them to report it because they are already there.