Controlled burns planned near Idyllwild next week

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IDYLLWILD (CNS) – U.S. Forest Service crews are slated next week to continue a series of controlled burns in the San Bernardino National Forest, north and south of Idyllwild, where nearly 50 acres of overgrowth will be eliminated, as long as winds remain calm, federal officials said today.

According to the USFS, controlled burns that began in November, thanks to the onset of winter weather, are scheduled at five locations within the San Bernardino National Forest in Riverside County, near Idyllwild, between Sunday and next Saturday.

“Fire crews will continue to take advantage of weather conditions that are safe for prescribed fire to burn slash piles made from vegetation thinned from the forest,” said agency spokesman Zach Behrens. “These active forest management projects continue longtime efforts to maintain facility and community defense throughout the forest.”

A four-acre burn is scheduled near the Alandale Fire Station, north of Idyllwild, while a 21-acre burn is planned near the Keenwild Fire Station, just south of the mountain community, Behrens said.

Additionally, a 12-acre burn will be conducted a short distance from the Vista Grande Fire Station, north of Idyllwild, and separate 10- and 12-acre burns are planned near the Kenworthy Fire Station in Garner Valley and the Cranston Fire Station east of Hemet, according to Behrens.

The National Weather Service has issued a High Wind Watch for Sunday evening to Tuesday morning, when a ridge of high pressure building over the Great Basin in Utah and Nevada will generate strong Santa Ana conditions, with easterly winds blowing 30 to 35 mph and gusting up to 60 mph in some locations.

Officials acknowledged that it is unlikely prescribed burns would be permitted under those conditions.

Behrens said in November that USFS crews aim to burn off hundreds of acres in the San Bernardino National Forest in preparation for the next wildfire season, which starts in May.

The burns have a restorative effect on the area ecology by ridding the forest of debris and excess timber, as well as widening defensive perimeters when blazes erupt, Behrens said.