The Cambrian

North Coast prescribed burns planned now through May 30

State Parks and Cal Fire have tentatively scheduled several prescribed burns and pile burnings between Nov. 13 and May 30.

Affected areas include Hearst San Simeon State Park, the northwest portion of Harmony Headlands State Park, the Black Hill area of Morro Bay State Park and the coastal terrace at Montana de Oro State Park, south of Spooner’s Cove.

When burning is underway, people in Cambria, San Simeon, Harmony, Cayucos, Morro Bay and Los Osos areas, or those traveling near the coast, may see smoke from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Years of drought, pitch canker fungal disease and insect infestation have taken a toll on trees and brush, especially in the Monterey pine forest. Grassland areas also have been affected by the lack of rainfall.

Officials plan to burn diseased, dead and fallen Monterey pine trees and woody materials when weather and other conditions permit. The burns are part of a vegetation management and fuel-load reduction program that prescribes controlled burns to cut the risk of wildfire.

Scientists say the treatments will enhance the health of the forests by removing diseased materials and restoring essential nutrients to the soil. Fire also helps maintain open grasslands in coastal scrub, and encourages pine recruitment in grasslands by using fire to open the seed cones.

Some public trails near the burn areas may be closed when the work is in progress.

Actual burn days will depend on the weather, any burn bans in effect, brush conditions and smoke-dispersal expectations as determined by the Air Pollution Control District. County officials will closely monitor air-pollution levels throughout the region.

If someone can smell smoke, officials urge precautions and common sense to reduce any harmful health effects by limiting outdoor activities, especially strenuous ones, and they advise people to remain indoors.

Precautions are especially important for children, the elderly and people with respiratory and heart conditions.

Smoke-sensitive persons should consider relocating activities and closing doors and windows on the day of the burn.

Officials also stress the need to use extreme caution while driving near burn operations.

For details, call Vince Cicero, senior environmental scientist for the San Luis Obispo Coast District of State Parks at 471-2049.