Controlled Burn Friday, October 10, 2014



Map of proposed controlled burn, shown in red.

USFS will post updates and links to social media at,

look for “2014 Wagon Road Underburn”


*     *     *

US Forest Service has notified Chief Appleton that they intend to conduct a controlled burn just west of Tom McCall Point, this Friday, Oct. 10.

The project is subject to weather, especially wind conditions.  But all indications at this point are favorable and Mosier Fire is told the burn is “going to happen”.

Please spread the word — if folks see smoke a couple miles east of town Friday between about 11AM and 4PM, do not be alarmed and do not call 911.

The area to be burned amounts to about 75 acres of mainly grass and oak on the east side of Rowena Creek (Hog Canyon), entirely uphill from Wagon Road.  This is the same land which was unsuccessfully burned two years ago.

This is 100% Forest Service land, and USFS is 100% in charge of the operation.  Mosier Fire District personnel will not participate, except as observers.  Chief Appleton will be on hand for the 1000 AM briefing and may position one of our engines nearby in case we we are called for structure protection.

These controlled burns are understandably a cause for concern for some people, as our hills and hollers are still tinder-dry.  Chief Appleton has a high degree of confidence that every precaution will be taken by experienced, competent professionals.  There should be upwards of 75 people staffing the operation, with loads of equipment and portable water tanks.  The fire line will be fully plumbed with fire hoses and a round-the-clock fire watch is to be in place for two days, at which time the goal is for the entire burn to be cold and mopped up.

The thinking behind these controlled burns is that our landscape and ecology are adapted to fire, and after 100 years of suppressing wild fires the Forest Service now wants to “reintroduce fire” — partly to reduce fuels, partly to cycle nutrients and improve habitat for wildlife and native plants, partly to practice and sign off on skills needed on big wild fires (using fire to create fire breaks), and partly to study the effects of proscribed fire on our long-term fuel picture, particularly native white oaks.


If it seems early in the season (meaning high fire danger), the reason is that USFS firing officers believe the procedure is safe (they did 100 acres last year about this time, with very good results and no hitches) and that it’s necessary to conduct the burn while things are still dry, in order to get better consumption of hazard fuels.
The way the operation unfolds is the first fire is put on the ground in a very thin strip — a few inches wide at most, along the uphill fire line.  Successive strips are then laid down one at a time from the top down, so that at any given moment only a narrow band of fire burns more or less at one elevation, with consumed, black char uphill and little or no fire creeping downhill.  Once the fire break on the uphill side is greater than about 100 feet, the horizontal fire strips can get noticeably wider, as firing officers try to get more intense fire behavior and better consumption of target fuels, in this case brushy patches and dead grass and wood.  The firing is typically laid down by three fire fighters at a time using special drip torches which dribble flaming gas/oil mixture.  The bulk of the crew is actually involved in “holding” — staffing positions and equipment on the fire line and patrolling uphill looking for spot fires.




Oregon Department of Forestry has primary responsibility for calling the end of fire season, and I have ultimate authority to decide when Mosier is safe for burn piles.  I expect no changes from ODF unless and until we’ve had at least 1/2-inch of rain spread over several days, with more in the forecast.

One response to “Controlled Burn Friday, October 10, 2014

  1. I’m all for controlled burns! I wish they’d do the entire Mosier Valley. I’d feel a lot safer. 🙂

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