NACHES — Controlled burns in the U.S. Forest Service’s Naches Ranger District, west of Yakima, could begin as early as next week.

The burns, which are intended to reduce forest floor debris that could fuel catastrophic wildland fires, could begin as early as the second week of April and continue through mid-June, according to the Naches Ranger District.

About 8,700 acres of burns are planned for lower elevation areas, such as the Wildcat drainage, Bald Mountain and the Rattlesnake drainage — areas that are off both State Route 410 and U.S. Highway 12.

Naches Ranger District personnel will use a combination of techniques to burn naturally accumulated fuels, such as downed tree limbs, and other woody debris from thinning treatments or timber harvests.

The Forest Service said it expects most of the smoke to dissipate during the individual burn days, with some smoke settling in the local mountain valleys at night. There is the potential for smoke to be visible from Naches and Yakima. Before starting a burn, Forest Service personnel will post signs on roads that might be affected by smoke.

“The impacts of smoke to the community are a primary concern of the Naches Ranger District. Smoke and poor air quality affect all of us,” Naches District Ranger Irene Davidson said. “We encourage the public to join our prescribed fire telephone and email notification list to receive daily updates on predicted smoke impacts.”

Forest Service officials say spring is an ideal time to conduct the burns.

“Spring gives us the opportunity to effectively apply prescribed burning on the landscape due to the residual moisture from the winter snowpack, combined with typical wet spring weather,” fuels specialist Jason Emhoff said in a news release.

The state Department of Natural Resources regulates smoke management and must approve all controlled burns on national forests.

The Naches Ranger District also works with the Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency during prescribed burns.

To join the district’s prescribed fire telephone and email notification list, call Emhoff at 509-653-1492.