The state of Oregon regulates prescribed fire smoke in much of the state – including burns on federal land. The regulations are there to protect population centers, places that have had air quality issues in the past, and viewsheds in natural protected areas.
But it appears this barrier is starting to crumble.
“We had smoke impacts in our communities from wildfires that, by orders of magnitude, were more destructive to air quality and human health than anything we see from prescribed burns,” said Amanda Rau, who pushed for the changes. Rau is a prescribed fire burn boss for the Nature Conservancy and chair of the Oregon Prescribed Fire Council.
In fact, 93% of all unhealthy air quality days in Oregon communities in 2018 were caused by wildfire.
Earlier this year, the Oregon Departments of Environmental Quality and Forestry approved an update to the state smoke management rules. Now, instead of forbidding all smoke from reaching towns, prescribed burners can drop a modest amount of smoke into communities without fear of being shut down.
— Oregon Public Broadcasting