477.005 declares that the
public policy of the State of Oregon is to preserve forests "through the
prevention and suppression of forest fires." Prescribed burning is an important
tool used to reduce forest fuels, re-introduce fire on the landscape, and has
been demonstrated to reduce the potential for a fire to start or reduce its
severity. It has also been demonstrated that fire suppression actions are more
effective and lower in cost in areas with a recent history of
(2) As a part of the
natural ecology of forestlands, wildfire is neither necessarily good nor bad.
In fire-dependent ecosystems, frequent wildfire serves to limit spread of
subsequent fires. However, there are a number of undesirable characteristics of
unplanned, uncontrolled fires. Among these are threats to public safety,
destruction of natural resources and property, and the adverse health effects
that can occur from breathing a significant amount of fine particulate matter
associated with wildfire smoke.
When areas do not experience fire or other means of reducing forest fuels for
extended periods, wildfire hazard increases. The likelihood increases if
unplanned ignitions occur, through whatever means, the resulting wildfire will
burn at greater intensity and be more difficult to suppress.
(4) Because wildfires typically burn during
hotter, drier conditions than those usually planned for prescribed fires,
forest fuels are more completely consumed, producing more emissions. Also,
wildfires often occur during periods of atmospheric stability, trapping smoke
close to the ground where it's more likely to impact humans.
(5) Prescribed burning is an important forest
management technique in all of Oregon's forests to reduce forest fuels for the
purposes of both short term and long term fire prevention and to aid in fire
suppression. Prescribed burning is typically conducted when weather conditions
allow fine fuels to readily ignite while larger fuels are consumed to a lesser
degree than in a wildfire. Resulting emissions are reduced and dissipated
quickly, before affecting populated areas.
(6) When forest fuel reduction can be
achieved economically without using prescribed burning, that choice is usually
favored. Even so, there are often silvicultural or agricultural advantages to
prescribed burning such as site preparation, nutrient cycling and reduction of
pests and disease that may not be achieved by simply removing the forest fuels.
For all these reasons described above, the Legislative Assembly (ORS
477.552) and Board of
Forestry have found it necessary to maintain prescribed burning as a forest