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The USDA Forest Service is pausing all spring prescribed fire efforts on national forest lands across the states of Oregon and Washington, according to a news release.

“We care deeply about our communities across the region and didn’t want to risk introducing smoke from prescribed fire into communities that may be affected by COVID-19,” said John Giller, director of Fire and Aviation Management for the Pacific Northwest Region of the USDA Forest Service. “With this pause, we can better protect those who may also be in higher-risk groups for COVID-19, such as the elderly and those with underlying respiratory conditions.”

While frequent, low-intensity fire is essential to the long-term health of many northwest forests and communities, employee and public safety remains the top priority.

The Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region contains 17 National Forests, a National Scenic Area, a National Grassland, and two National Volcanic Monuments, all within the States of Oregon and Washington.