Forest Service Starts Winter Prescribed Burn Program

Improved weather conditions will allow the U. S. Forest Service to begin its Winter Prescribed Fire Program. (File Photo by Michael P. Neufeld)

By Michael P. Neufeld

San Bernardino, CA – Prescribed fire is a useful tool for managing San Bernardino National Forest lands.

A Forest Service firefighter ignites slash piles off Highway 173 in Lake Arrowhead. (File Photo by Michael P. Neufeld)

The recent shift in the weather will now allow the USDA U. S. Forest Service to begin its winter prescribed burn program as part of an ongoing effort to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire and improve forest health.  The prescribed fire program will continue through the winter months as weather and conditions permit.

Shawna Legarza

Prescribed fires are ignited only when both weather and fuel conditions exist that will ensure low to moderate burning rates and firefighting resources are available to keep fires within fire lines,” according to Forest Service Fire Chief Shawna Legarza.


To many people the word fire creates visions of great devastation and waste. While this concept can be true of wildfires, it is just the opposite with prescribed burns.

Prescribed fires and pile burning are intended to reduce the amount of vegetation, such as needles, small plants, brush, and small trees, which can carry fire from the forest floor into the treetops. Studies and experience have shown that prescribed fires actually help stimulate the growth of grasses, forbs and shrubs that provide food for deer, mountain quail and other wildlife.

We are sensitive to the fact that smoke has an impact on people, particularly those with respiratory conditions and allergies,” Legarza said in a media release. “Every effort is made to ignite prescribed fires when weather patterns will carry smoke away from populated areas.”


A number of prescribed burns will be near fire stations, like this one in Skyforest. (File Photo by Michael P. Neufeld(

The ignition of all prescribed burns is dependent on the availability of personnel and equipment, appropriate conditions, and in coordination with the National Weather Service and South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) before and during prescribed burns in order to manage smoke production and minimize impacts as much as possible.

Fire managers follow a burn plan that outlines the “prescription” or environmental conditions such as temperature, wind, fuel moisture, ventilation, and relative humidity that need to be present before the project begins.

When the criteria are met, crews implement, monitor, and patrol each burn to ensure it meets the goals and objectives outlined by managers.

Firefighters will be burning slash and debris piles adjacent to Forest Service Fire Stations.  Signs will be posted along the roadways to alert passerby’s to the burning activity.

The Forest Service will send out occasional reminders to the public, alerting them to potential of smoke in the air.

In addition to the station pile burning, the public may also see smoke from pile burning activities in the following forest locations over the winter months:

San Bernardino Mountains:

  • Prescribed fire State Highway 38 as part of the Angelus Oaks Community Defense Project.
  • Slash and debris piles near Pisgah Peak, south of Oak Glen.
  • Slash and debris piles near the Oak Glen California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Conservation Camp.
  • Slash and debris piles along Forest Road 2N10, south of Big Bear Lake.
  • Slash and debris piles along Forest Road 2N19, south of Green Valley Lake.
  • Slash and debris piles along Highway 173 near Grass Valley Rd, north of Lake Arrowhead.
  • Slash and pile burning near various fire stations.

San Jacinto Mountains:

  • Prescribed fire near Lake Hemet, north of Highway 74, as part of the on-going Bonita Vista fuels reduction project.
  • Slash and pile burning near Saunders Meadow Road and 243, Lawler Lodge and 243, and near the community of Bonita Vista.
  • Slash and pile burning near various fire stations.


For additional information, the public can call the Forest Service’s local offices to find out where burning is taking place:

  • Big Bear Ranger Station & Discovery Center (909) 382-2790
  • Lytle Creek Ranger Station (909) 382-2851
  • Idyllwild Ranger Station (909) 382-2922
  • Mill Creek Work Center (909) 382-2882
  • Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains National Monument (760) 862-9984



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