Firefighters prepare for fall prescribed burning on the Lolo National Forest

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October 15, 2020

Firefighters prepare for fall prescribed burning on the Lolo National Forest

MISSOULA, Mont.  The Lolo National Forest is planning to implement fall prescribed burning projects over the next several weeks, pending conditions. Most of the planned burns include pile burning with some understory burns to reduce residual slash from thinning and timber harvest operations. The landscapes on the Lolo National Forest are fire-dependent ecosystems which means frequent, low-intensity fire is essential for restoring forest health. Prescribed fire also helps to reduce hazardous fuels nearby communities and improve wildlife habitat by creating diversity of vegetation cover and stimulating new growth of shrubs, forbs, and grasses.

Pending conditions, pile burning operations could begin as soon as Friday, Oct. 16 on the Missoula Ranger District in the Wishered Ridge, Lockwood Point, Sheep Mountain trailhead, and Mineral Peak Lookout Road areas, and on the Ninemile Ranger District in the Kreis Pond area.

The Kreis Pond Campground will be temporarily closed while firefighters conduct pile burning operations in that area; however, no other recreation closures are planned for tomorrow. Those recreating in the areas of pile burning operations are advised to use caution and avoid locations where firefighters are working. Firefighters will be on-scene to implement and manage the pile burning. Smoke is anticipated to move up and to the east of burning operations with favorable smoke dispersion, and firefighters will monitor dispersion closely throughout the day.

All prescribed burning activities are implemented in close coordination with county and state health officials and other local cooperators. Initial operations for the fall burning season will begin incrementally, and progress based on environmental and community health conditions.

“Prescribed burning is an effective tool for reducing hazardous fuels in areas nearby communities and it is one of many ways we treat landscapes to reduce wildfire risk,” said Carolyn Upton, Lolo National Forest Supervisor. “As always, we work in close coordination with local and state health organizations and our partners ahead of the implementation of these prescribed burns to minimize public impact.”

The safety of the public and wildland fire responders is always the number one priority as fire managers plan and prepare for these prescribed burns. The Forest Service is taking a risk-informed approach to managing prescribed fire this season by evaluating the following factors; fire responder availability, potential smoke impacts to communities, and the ability to use local and regional resources so long-distance travel is not necessary. If these factors are met and the environmental conditions are right, prescribed burns may be implemented.

Prescribed burns are only implemented under the right conditions. Favorable conditions include correct temperature, wind, fuel moisture and ventilation for smoke. When these criteria are met, firefighters implement, monitor, and patrol each burn to ensure it meets forest health and public safety goals including air quality.

Overnight, there is potential for smoke to settle in valley bottoms, but it is anticipated to dissipate within 1-3 days. Fire managers plan to conduct the burning quickly, with limited impacts to recreational users and the general public. Depending on location, residents and visitors can expect to see and smell some smoke each day during burning operations.

Implementation of these prescribed burns will follow Montana air quality standards and the burns are coordinated with Montana State Department of Environmental Quality to reduce the impacts of smoke to neighbors, cooperators, and surrounding communities. For more information on smoke and public health please visit:

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