Fire agencies begin new burn program

Warm Springs Fire Management and the BIA this week began a program to conduct controlled burns with the use of a helicopter. The aerial ignition burns were scheduled to start this week on the Metolius Bench area of the reservation, said Brad Donahue, of Fire Management fuels.

The aerial ignition program includes a class that is conducted at Fire Management, providing certification for firefighters interested in taking part in the aerial ignition program.

Firefighters were on hand from California, Arizona, Washington and other areas, plus from Warm Springs.

Fire Management has not used aerial ignition of controlled burns since 1989. Then last year, national BIA fire officials were in Warm Springs on other business, and suggested holding a training here this year. Fire Management agreed.

The plan is to control burn about 4,000 acres at the Metolius Bench, which would help reduce the threat of a major wildfire later in the year, Donahue said.

Fire Management has had a controlled burn program for several years, with the ignition done by hand on the ground.

For a 4,000-acre project, this can take two to three weeks, whereas aerial ignition can accomplish this in a day or so, Donahue said.

Fire Management-BIA is using a helicopter and pilot from Bend. Crew members carry out the aerial ignition with the use of what are nick-named “ping pong balls.”

These are small plastic spheres filled with potassium permanganate. When the helicopter is over the area to be burned, the balls are injected with ethylene glycol and immediately jettisoned.

VDOS Global, working with Ventures – Eagle Tech was possibly going to use a drone to record the process.