The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in a press release this week that it has approved Washington State’s updated Smoke Management Plan under the Clean Air Act.

The Smoke Management Plan will regulate prescribed burning on forest land, which is aimed at reducing fuel load, restoration of forest ecosystems, and the potential reduction of the risk to communities from catastrophic wildfires.

Casey Sixkiller, Regional Administrator of EPA’s Region 10 office in Seattle said, “As wildfires become more frequent and severe, particularly here in the Northwest, we are working closely with our local, state, tribal and federal partners to help prevent, prepare for, and mitigate those risks and impacts.”

She adds, “By increasing the flexibility in the tools and timing for prescribed burning, we can better prevent and reduce the health impacts of smoke from wildfires on our communities.”

These key revisions to Washington State's Smoke Management Plan are expected to modernize the approval process, allowing for prescribed burns to be a more effective tool in the ongoing efforts to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, aw well as to prevent and managing air quality impacts.

According to Commissioner of Public, Lands Hilary Franz, “Prescribed burning is a critical component of DNR’s continued forest health work. Using ‘good fire’ to remove potential fuels safely and efficiently makes our forests and grasslands healthier and less susceptible to the explosive wildfires that have filled Washington’s summer skies with smoke the last decade.”

The impact of wildfires upon communities across Washington during the past decade is clear to see, with many large-scale wildfires impacting air quality. Prescribed fires are increasingly being utilized as a land management tool to significantly reduce the likelihood of catastrophic wildfires. Prescribed burns reduce the buildup of fuels and strengthens ecosystems. According to the press release, the State anticipates increasing the application of prescribed fire in response to the increasing threat of wildfires in Washington.

For more information on prescribed burns, restrictions and permits in Washington state, visit the Department of Natural Resources Burn Portal here.

For wildfire smoke information in Washington state, including health risks, air monitoring and forecast smoke levels, go here.

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