High Desert Museum closed Friday for prescribed burn on property

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The High Desert Museum and Deschutes National Forest are coordinating to conduct a prescribed burn at the Museum Friday.

If weather conditions remain favorable, firefighters will ignite the burn in the morning and the Museum will be closed for the day. The Museum intends to reopen on Saturday at 9:00 am.

The burn will likely end at about 5:00 pm depending upon conditions.

Smoke may linger in the area for up to a week but will begin to dissipate after ignitions are complete.

Fire officials will burn roughly 40-50 acres of forested Museum property, north of the Museum footprint and in the parking lot area.

“We’re grateful for the collaboration with the Deschutes National Forest to help promote forest resilience on our 135 beautiful, wooded acres,” said High Desert Museum Executive Director Dana Whitelaw, Ph.D. “The prescribed burn will help create a more resilient forest, as well as a defensible space protecting the Museum and its art and artifacts. It will also provide an opportunity to help educate visitors about the critical role of fire in the High Desert ecosystem.”

Fire has long played a vital role in the region.

Low-intensity wildfires would historically burn through a ponderosa pine forest every five to 20 years.

These burns cleared out shrubs, saplings and other debris beneath the trees. The heat also opens ponderosa cones and enables them to release seeds, continuing the natural cycle.

“We are excited to work in partnership with the High Desert Museum and private landowners, not only to keep our important fire-dependent ecosystems healthy, but also to help reduce the

intensity of a wildfire and protect our firefighters should we get a fire in our Wildland Urban Interface,” said Holly Jewkes, forest supervisor of the Deschutes National Forest.

With suppression of wildfires over the last century in the West, land managers have steadily been working during low fire risk times of the year to conduct prescribed burns, mimicking the natural cycle.

This reduces the chance of unplanned, catastrophic wildfires that can threaten communities.

In May 2018, the U.S. Forest Service conducted a successful prescribed burn on the south end of the Museum property and on other adjacent public lands to the south.

The public can find an interactive map of prescribed burns as well as air quality information at centraloregonfire.org/wildfire-smoke-air-quality-maps-2.

If the public wants to sign up for text alerts about prescribed fires and wildfires, they should text COFIRE to 888-777.

The public is encouraged to close their windows at night and if smoke is on the roadway, turn on headlights and slow down while traveling through smoky areas.

The public’s health is important to the Forest Service. While significant preventive measures are taken, many factors influence a person’s susceptibility to smoke, including severity and duration of smoke exposure and a person’s health.

If individuals feel impacted by smoke, they should avoid outdoor physical exertion and remain indoors.

If people experience serious health impacts from the smoke, they should contact their doctor. For more information about smoke and health, visit the Oregon Health Authority recommendations at oregon.gov/oha/PH/Preparedness/Prepare/Pages/PrepareForWildfire.aspx#health

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