Prescribed Burns Planned for Darby and West Fork Areas

Contact(s): Tod McKay

Hamilton, Montana – The Darby/Sula Ranger District is planning, weather permitting, to implement spring prescribed burning projects beginning this week.  Fire crews are planning on conducting a 200-acre prescribed burn tomorrow east of Sula.

The burn is scheduled to start around 1:00 p.m. up the East Fork, north of East Fork Road and west of Guide Creek.  Fire crews from the Darby/Sula, West Fork, and Stevensville Ranger Districts along with Trapper Creek Job Corps are participating in the burn along with several engines.  Smoke will likely be visible from East Fork Road.         

Tomorrow’s burn is one of several prescribed fire projects planned this spring on the forest totaling approximately 2,500 acres.  Over the next several weeks, fire crews will be conducting low intensity, understory burns to reduce hazardous fuels and the risk of tree mortality from an unplanned, or catastrophic wildfire or competition from undesirable species.  Treatment areas include:

Darby/Sula Ranger District: (1,900 acres) 

  • East Fork Units, north of East Fork Road between Jennings and Martin Creek Campgrounds (Prescribed Fire)
  • Como Horse Lick Units, north of Lake Como (Prescribed Fire)   
  • Trapper Bunkhouse Units, South of Darby near Chaffin Creek (Prescribed Fire)

West Fork Ranger District:  (600 acres)

  • Lower West Fork Units near Troy, Lavene and Baker Creeks  (Prescribed Fire)
  • School Point Ecoburn, east of Nelson Creek and between Gemmel & Halford Creeks (Prescribed Fire)
  • Watchtower Trailhead (Pile Burning)  
  • Lower West Fork Unit near Baker Creek Road (Pile Burning)   

The burns will only be ignited if operational safety, fuel moisture, weather conditions, and air quality parameters can be attained.  Fire crews will monitor all burns after ignition to ensure that they stay within prescribed boundaries.  All areas will be signed and notifications will be made to local residents. 

Low intensity prescribed fires have several objectives including:

  • Maintain forest health and ecosystem restoration
  • Improve wildlife habitat – many plants respond favorably to fire providing new food sprouts for wildlife. 
  • Reduce the potential of large, high intensity wildfires by reducing the amount of downed fuel to burn.
  • Post harvest slash treatment – reduce residual slash created by thinning operations and personal use firewood cutting.

Burning in the spring is also an important way of reducing the amount of smoke that typically impacts communities during the fire season.  Smoke will be much less than what would be expected from a wildfire.  If smoke concentrations approach air quality standards, fire ignition may be delayed until air quality improves.  Residual smoke may be visible for up to 2 weeks following ignition, but most of the smoke from the fires will dissipate in 1-2 days.   

For public safety, recreationists are asked to be aware of fire crews and vehicles in these areas.  The public is also asked to avoid traveling in prescribed burn units as well as trails and roads directly adjacent to the units.  Please take caution as roads and trails used as control lines for the burn could be temporarily impacted by low intensity fire and smoke.       

Fire managers hope to conduct the burning quickly, with limited impacts to recreational users and the general public.  For more information or to be placed on a day-of-burning notification list, please contact your local ranger station.  

For the latest burn announcements, burn updates, maps, and photos of projects visit us   at and




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