After a late wet winter and with current spring conditions ideal for prescribed burning, San Bernardino National Forest officials began pile burning in the Big Bear area May 14.

The broadcast burn is on Bluff Mesa, which is to the southwest of Big Bear Lake. This burn is expected to last through next week if conditions remain safe and productive for burning. Smoke will be visible in the immediate area and may even be seen from areas off the mountain during ignitions. Smoke may continue to be visible for up to a month when the prescribed burn site goes into patrol status.

The project is part of a larger effort to create defensible space for communities and infrastructure along the lake’s south shore. It is also aimed at restoring Bluff Meadow. There are 497 acres to the north and south of the meadow targeted, with the remaining acres of the 1,184-acre project slated for burning at a later time, possibly next year. To date, over 1,000 acres have been treated in the Big Bear area with prescribed burning during the past several months.

“One of our top priorities is to manage the forest to aid in protecting communities from wildfire,” said Mountaintop District Ranger Marc Stamer. “We have been preparing this area for prescribed burning for a number of years and are at a point where we can responsibly return fire to the landscape.”

The low-intensity prescribed burn will target needle cast and duff on forest floor. Lightning strike-caused fires historically frequented the area, but with fire suppression over the last century, the duff layer has built up. An unmanaged fire in the duff can reach the roots of trees, killing stands of them across an area. Fire crews have removed the duff layer around old growth trees, including the champion lodgepole pine, one of the world’s largest known of the species.

Shared stewardship helped make this project possible. Meadow restoration work was partially funded by the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority. Additionally, Urban Conservation Crews from the Southern California Mountains Foundation aided forest staff in preparing the area for burning.

Visitors to the immediate area should expect traffic delays along forest roads 2N10 (Mill Creek), 2N11 (Santa Ana Divide) and 2N86 (Kidd Creek). Access to the Champion Lodgepole and Siberia Creek trails, as well as the upper side of the Castle Rock trail, may be impacted. Campers at Yellow Post Campsites #28 and #29 should be advised of smoke in the area.

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