People may see smoke from prescribed fires in the National Forest this spring. 

Prescribed burning has started in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and will continue over the next couple of months. 

Forest Service spokesperson Robin DeMario says the fires are meant to clear the forest of fuels that trigger wildfires. 

"You'll see an accumulation of needles from trees, pinecones, twigs, tree limbs, dead brush, logs, those things that are laying on the forest floor or piled up," said DeMario. 

People can expect to see and smell some smoke during burning operations. 

Approximately 6,800 acres in the National Forest is scheduled for prescribed burning this spring. 

In Chelan County, crews will burn about 350 acres near the top of Blewett Pass, around 550 acres in two units on the north shore around 20 miles northwest of Chelan, and in the Entiat area, where plans call for burning in Crum Canyon and other units further up the Entiat Valley. 

DeMario says fires are planned out to be safe and targeted. 

"It's a low intensity, slow application of fire to the forest floor to consume those fuels that are on the forest floor, that then return those nutrients to the soil, and also clear the area in case of a future wildfire," DeMario said. 

Crews use special equipment to ensure the fires only burn at ground level and produce small flames. 

The tool known as a drip torch is used to slowly drip ingredients such as diesel fuel on the ground. Flame length from the fire is typically five to 10 feet, far short of wildfires that produce 50–100-foot flames. 

According to the Forest Service, all prescribed burns are weather dependent and fire specialists will cease burning as soon as possible if objectives are not being met or weather conditions are unfavorable. Their primary concerns include favorable winds that can minimize smoke impacts to public health, and the risk of fire escape. 

Proper burning conditions include correct temperature, wind, fuel moisture, and ventilation for smoke.   

When those conditions are met, firefighters implement, monitor, and patrol each burn to ensure it meets forest health and public safety goals including air quality. 

The public can go to the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Facebook page or Twitter site for daily information about prescribed fires once prescribed burn operations begin. A phone line is also available for daily updates: 509-996-4040. 

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