The U.S. Forest Service will begin its winter prescribed burn program in the San Bernardino National Forest with the arrival of favorable weather conditions.

Winter burning projects continue the effort to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire and improve forest health. The prescribed fire program will continue through the winter months as weather and conditions permit.

In the San Jacinto Ranger District, burning may occur in the following areas:

• Near Lake Hemet north of Highway 74 as part of the ongoing Bonita Vista fuels reduction project.

• Slash and debris piles burning may occur near Lawler Lodge west of Highway 243 and north of Idyllwild, Keenwild north of Mountain Center, Southridge, east of Fern Valley and Idyllwild, and near various fire stations.

Some of the burning may begin as early as this week, if the rain is sufficient, according to Fire Chief Dan Felix, of the San Jacinto Ranger District.

Prescribed fires and pile burning are intended to reduce the amount of vegetation, such as needles, small plants, brush and small trees, that can carry fire from the forest floor into the treetops. Studies and experience have shown that prescribed fires will stimulate the growth of grasses, forbs (flowering herbs) and shrubs that provide food for deer, mountain quail and other wildlife.

The ignition of all prescribed burns depends on the availability of personnel and equipment and appropriate conditions, and in coordination with the National Weather Service and South Coast Air Quality Management District before and during prescribed burns in order to manage smoke production and minimize impacts as much as possible.

When firefighters burn slash and debris piles near Forest Service fire stations, signs will be posted along the roadways to alert passersby.

Questions about the burning may be asked at the Idyllwild Ranger Station on Pine Crest Avenue or by calling 909-382-2922.

J.P. Crumrine can be reached at [email protected]