Skip to main content

Inyo RX Burning 2021

Unit Information

Inyo National Forest
U.S. Forest Service
351 Pacu Lane
Bishop, CA 93514

USFS Shield

This incident is no longer being updated.

Smoke from a 75-acre burn unit part of a prescribed fire project on the Inyo National Forest, May 4, 2021.Image options: [ Full Size ]

Pre-planned prescribed fire projects may take place at specific locations across the Inyo National Forest during the winter and spring months. Actual project ignition will depend upon local weather and fuel conditions. Planned projects include burning piles as well as low-intensity understory burns of vegetation on the forest floor. The main goals of these projects are to reduce the severity of future wildfires and to provide added protection for communities in the wildland urban interface. In addition, prescribed burns promote a diverse and more resilient forest and improve habitat for wildlife.

Prescribed Fire Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the benefits of Prescribed Burning?

Fire in the wildland plays a vital role in the natural cycle of life in the forest and it can also quickly become a dangerous hazard situation for a community. A non-catastrophic fire, whether prescribed or natural, has many ecosystem and resource benefits. An unmanageable wildfire threat to a community is a situation we all want to avoid. Prescribed fire is the controlled application of fire to the land to accomplish specific land management goals and can reduce hazardous fuels accumulations that can lead to an unwanted wildfire threat. The benefits include:

Reducing hazard fuel build-up: Dead wood, overcrowded, unhealthy trees, thick layers of pine needles, and continuous decadent brush fields can all contribute to catastrophic wildfires in the forest or adjacent to communities.

Prepares the land for new growth: When excess vegetation or needle layers are burned off, nitrogen and other nutrients are released into the soil and become available for new plants to grow.

Helps certain plants/trees germinate: Many native plant and forest communities have adapted to fire for their germination and growth. Seed contact with bare soil (such as that exposed by a fire) is necessary for some species to naturally regenerate.

Naturally thins overcrowded forests: Historically, natural fire thinned the forests. Thinned forests can recover faster and are more resistant to insect and disease attacks. Currently, many of the mature forests are overcrowded, resulting in a lack of vigor and health.

Creates diversity needed by wildlife: Fire creates a varied land and vegetation pattern that provides diverse habitat for plants and animals. Grazing wildlife benefit from new growth as shrubs produce succulent edible leaves when re-sprouting after a fire.

What is a burn plan?

A burn plan helps ensure that the objectives of the burn are met, as well as addressing safety issues. Land managers determine if the resource would benefit from a specifically prescribed fire application. The burn plan determines the environmental conditions necessary for meeting resource objectives in a safe, effective manner.

The plan includes how and when the fire will be ignited and contained and what resources, such as fire equipment and personnel, must be on site before burning may begin. Air Quality Management District issues project specific burning permits as required. A burn plan must be followed. If unexpected problems arise, a burn operation is shut down.

How is burning accomplished?

Two major methods of burning are utilized on the Inyo National Forest:

Pile Burning: Involves burning piles that were generated by hand piling and mechanical piling. The piled fuels are typically generated by some activity like logging slash, thinning, and brush removal.

Underburning: Involves implementing a light-to-moderate intensity fire through an area to reduce surface fuel loading, thin overstocked reproduction, and accomplish natural limbing of lower (near ground level) branches of large trees.

Who does the burning?

Prescribed fire use is conducted by trained and qualified fire management professionals who have studied and are experienced and skilled in the areas of fire behavior and fire management techniques. These prescribed fire professionals help ensure the safety of the burn crew, nearby residents, and property.

What about the smoke?

Controlling where the smoke will go is an important part of every prescribed burn. Before each burn, land managers look carefully at what they plan to burn and the proximity of houses, roads, and other smoke sensitive sites to the planned burn area. The burn plan is then written to minimize negative impacts of smoke, especially to individuals who may be smoke-sensitive. We work closely with the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District to ensure we ignite under the most optimum times in order to limit any harmful effects of smoke to sensitive areas.

Smoke, however, is a natural byproduct of fire and some amounts are unavoidable. Periodic prescribed burns prevent heavy fuel accumulation that would send a larger amount of smoke into the air should an uncontrolled wildfire occur.

When does burning occur?

The Inyo National Forest conducts most prescribed fires between October 1 and June 1. Prescribed burning is started after the fall rainy season begins, and extends until the final spring rains are eminent usually in April. The forest burn schedule is established for fuels reduction, wildlife habitat and resource protection priorities.

Basic Information

Current as of
Incident TypePrescribed Fire
Coordinates37.716 latitude, -118.879 longitude