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March 2018 Prescribed burn on Figueroa Mountain

Rudy Gaytan, a member of the U.S. Forest Service Hotshot team out of Arroyo Grande, monitors a burning pile of dead trees cleared from the Pino Alto Picnic Area on Figueroa Mountain during a prescribed burn operation on March 28, 2018.

Los Padres National Forest plans to begin its annual prescribed burning operations to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, create conditions for a safer and more effective response to wildfires, foster more resilient ecosystems, and minimize the effects of large wildfires on the landscape.

The prescribed fire program will continue through the winter and spring months as permitted by weather and other environmental factors.

When weather conditions are favorable for prescribed burns, officials will share locations and dates on the forest’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, a Los Padres spokesman said.

Information signs also will be posted along roadways to alert the public to the burning and smoke that may be visible in the area.

Prescribed fires in the understory and burning of slash piles are intended to reduce the amount of vegetation, like pine needles, small plants, brush and small trees, that can carry fire from the forest floor into the treetops, the spokesman said.

When implementing the burns, fire managers follow a plan that outlines the “prescription,” or such environmental conditions as temperature, wind, fuel moisture, ventilation and relative humidity, that must be present before the burning begins.

When the criteria are met, fire crews ignite, monitor and patrol each burn to ensure it meets the objectives outlined by managers and does not escape its bounds.

Studies and experience have shown prescribed fires stimulate the growth of grasses, flowering plants and shrubs that provide food for deer, mountain quail and other wildlife, the spokesman said.

Whether a prescribed burn is ignited depends on the availability of personnel and equipment and appropriate conditions.

Prescribed burns are coordinated with the National Weather Service and air pollution control districts to manage smoke production and minimize impacts, the spokesman said.

For more information on Los Padres National Forest’s prescribed fire program, contact Gregory Thompson at 661-245-3731.

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Lee Central Coast Newspapers associate editor Mike Hodgson covers Santa Barbara County government and events and issues in Santa Ynez Valley. Follow him on Twitter @MHodgsonSYVNews.