Daily Record: Multiple bills in legislative process to address need for prescribed fire

It’s the time of year again where the sight of smoke in the hills is most likely a positive sign.

Throughout the month of October, firefighters from across the state are participating in a series of prescribed burns in Upper County. According to a multiagency press release, the burns will increase the ability of fire professionals to mitigate the risk of unplanned summer fires that put nearby communities at risk of catastrophic impacts, as well as building fire management skills for local fire practitioners.

The release said that the burns are planned in several locations in the forestlands surrounding Cle Elum, Roslyn, and Ronald. The burn areas include planned burns within the lands managed by The Nature Conservancy and within the Roslyn Urban Forest.

“This year’s cross-ownership and collaborative burns showcase what’s possible when we work together to put more fire to use,” Washington Prescribed Fire Council Coordinator Kara Karboski said in the release. “Fire knows no boundaries, and the solutions to our wildfire management problems will require everyone from state agencies to private landowners to collaborate on proven solutions like prescribed fire.”

The burns are part of the Cascadia Prescribed Fire Training Exchange, otherwise known as TREX. The release explained that the program is designed to increase shared stewardship and learning across agencies and landowners.

“One of the biggest benefits of the TREX program is the various agencies and local community members building relationships for the future when wildfire does break out,” Kittitas County Commissioner Laura Osiadacz said in the release. “It’s great to work side by side with the state Department of Natural Resources and other agencies and take our learnings back to our fire department.”

The TREX program is not new to Upper County, with fuel reduction work taking place within the Roslyn Urban Forest over the past few years. The release added that TREX burns have been occurring in the area since 2017, with over 120 fire practitioners taking place in the events. The 2021 fall TREX season is hosted by the Washington Prescribed Fire Council and is funded by the Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. Additional support for the program comes from The Nature Conservancy, Fire Learning Network, the City of Roslyn, and fire departments throughout Kittitas County.


The TREX program was in full effect within the Roslyn Urban Forest Wednesday, as crews worked on a prescribed burn covering approximately six acres. Fire departments from around the county were in attendance, along with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

When preparing for prescribed burns, The Nature Conservancy Director of Forest Restoration and Fire Reese Lolley explained that many factors go into the decision of whether to proceed with the event.

“There’s a lot of planning that goes into planning for this day,” he said. “A prescribed burn prescription is based on aspects including wind, fuel moisture, and what we are trying to achieve by putting fire on the ground, both in the sense of community protection, forest health, rangeland, and the landowner objectives.”

Another factor Lolley said goes into the decision to move ahead with a burn include the ventilation of smoke produced by the burn so that it doesn’t adversely affect local communities. A comprehensive communication plan also needs to be in place to ensure local communities and first responders are informed about the burn. Once the approval to move ahead is received, the fire crews will start with a test burn on the uphill side of the prescribed burn site.

“You start with putting a little bit of fire with a drip torch down and then observing how the fuels are burning and how it’s behaving,” he said. “There’s some measurements taken and then you make a decision on whether you stop there and wait or move forward.”