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Chiloquin burn piles

Smoke rises Friday morning from piles of wood ignited earlier in the week on the Chiloquin Ranger District.

CHILOQUIN – Smoke from 12 wood debris piles ignited Monday on the Chiloquin Ranger District stagnated due to high atmospheric pressure Thursday, creating smoky conditions which impacted the nearby area, including the Sage School, which was evacuated Friday morning, according to a Fremont-Winema National Forest news release.

The piles were part of the Fort Planning Area, an older forest fuels reduction project located east of the Fort Klamath Valley. At one point there were over 150 piles that needed to be burned. At the beginning of this week there were only 40 remaining.

Firefighters have been strategic in burning these piles for the past several years out of concern for the school and local community – burning the piles furthest away from sensitive areas and only when conditions were ideal.

“The unsettled weather forecasted for this week presented what appeared to be ideal conditions to take care of 12 more piles this week,” said Chiloquin Ranger District Fire Management Officer Evan Wright. “Unfortunately, there was an unexpected blip of high pressure Thursday that resulted in air stagnation until the next front approached late this morning and the winds resumed in a favorable direction away from the community.”

By 11 a.m. Friday, smoke conditions in the area had improved dramatically. With precipitation forecasted for this weekend, all 12 piles are anticipated to be snowed out. There are no further prescribed pile burns planned in that area of the Chiloquin Ranger District this winter.

Fire managers are looking at alternatives to burning for removal of the remaining piles which are close to the school.