Controlled burns are planned Wednesday and Thursday around Lake Skinner in Winchester and Lake Mathews, south of Riverside, where Riverside County Fire Department crews intend to eliminate a total 138 acres of excess vegetation, advising residents and visitors not to be alarmed by the smoke.

According to fire officials, the first burn is slated for 6 a.m. Wednesday on the perimeter of Lake Skinner, where 55 acres will be targeted for removal. About 75 acres of foliage was burned off earlier this month, officials said.

The operation is scheduled to conclude no later than 3 p.m. and will only proceed if winds remain calm.

During the same hours Thursday, crews plan to conduct a prescribed burn in the area of Cajalco Road and La Sierra Avenue, bordering Lake Mathews, where 83 acres will be torched, following an earlier burn that eliminated close to 70 acres, according to the fire department.

“The burns at Lake Mathews accomplish the goal of rehabilitating the burrowing owl and Stephens’ Kangaroo Rat habitat through eradication of non-native grasses and weeds,” according to an agency statement. “The burns at Lake Skinner accomplish the goal of rehabilitating mammals such as the LA pocket mouse and San Diego black-tailed rabbit.”

Additionally, the controlled fire at Lake Mathews will be utilized as a training opportunity for Cal Fire arson investigators, who will be deployed to examine how the blaze started as part of a skills development drill, officials said.

Prescribed burns are conducted every spring in the county, on calm days with moderate to high relative humidity, reducing wildfire danger.

The drift smoke from the operations will be visible to motorists and residents throughout western Riverside County, including along major freeways, and the fire department emphasized that people needn’t be alarmed.

Anyone with questions or concerns was asked to call the agency’s public affairs bureau at 951-940-6985.

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