Wednesday, May 25 , 2016, 5:56 pm | Partly Cloudy 68º

Reported Smoke Is from Prescribed Burns in Los Padres Forest

By Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper |

Several Santa Barbara County residents placed calls last week to the Los Padres National Forest Ranger Districts last week reporting smoke, but officials say there is nothing to worry about.

The smoke at various locations was from prescribed burns taking place throughout the forest.

Forest officials announced last week that cut and piled brush was being burned in the Figueroa Mountain Recreational Area, located a few miles northwest of Los Olivos, as well as in the Lower Santa Ynez Recreation Area.

Forest spokesman Andrew Madsen said that the various ranger districts had gotten some calls from people asking about the smoke and who hadn't been aware of the burns going on.

Normally, January through March is the time when burns will take place, "but because the weather was cooperating, we went ahead," he said.

"We're out doing a lot of mechanical work, with a masticator in overgrown areas," he said, adding that crews have been putting cut brush into larges piles up on Figueroa Mountain and near Frazier Park.

There's a small window when the weather presents less of a fire hazard and prescribed burns can be done, but for the last two years, that window has closed because of severe conditions, Madsen said.

As a result, some of the brush piles have been waiting to be burned for four or five years because conditions have not been right, he said.

The piles at higher elevations will be surrounded by a ring of snow and then set on fire and with the recent rains and precipitation, crews got to work.

The Forest Service has also been conducting "broadcast burns," Madsen said, where prescribed burns will take place on a larger swath of land.

This type of burn also has to be done during ideal conditions, which can mean a burn of one parcel can take years.

A swath of 10,000 acres near Highway 166, which Madsen called "the Sheep Burn," has been taking place over the last decade as crews work to corral brush and chaparral.

Because the weather is warmer and potential winds could be on the horizon, Madsen doesn't anticipate any burns in the near future.

Madsen said anyone who sees smoke or has questions about the prescribed burns is welcome to call the Santa Barbara Ranger District at 805.967.3481 or Santa Lucia Ranger District at 805.925.9538.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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