Spring officially arrived this week, and the Bitterroot National Forest spring burning season also is beginning. The fires are set to reduce fuel-heavy areas that could increase major fire risks during the coming forest fire season.

The smoke from prescribed fires could start appearing as soon as Wednesday, depending on weather conditions, according to Tod McKay of the Bitterroot National Forest. The first area for flames is south of Lake Como on the Darby/Sula Ranger District. McKay said the "underburning" operation (see photo above) burns low level vegetation around trees and in open grassy meadows and an added benefit is the growth of new fire-adapted plants and new forage for wildlife.

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The spring burning season will last until May and is part of an increased effort to reduce major forest fire risks as part of a three-year Fire Adapted Bitterroot plan in Ravalli County.

Prescribed Fire schedule for Bitterroot Valley

Planned burns are:
Darby/Sula Ranger District

  • Waddell Units south of Lake Como
  • Como/Horse Lick, north of Lake Como between Lost Horse Canyon and Lake Como
  • Trapper Bunkhouse, between Little Tin Cup and McCoy Creeks southwest of Darby
  • Cameron Blue, along East Fork Road near Guide Creek, east of Sula
  • Teepee Face and Schultz Saddle, east of Sula and west of Springer Memorial
  • Tolan Ecoburn, between Reimel and Tolan Creeks east of Sula

West Fork Ranger District

  • Lower West Fork Units south of Trapper Creek and north of Lloyd Creek
  • School Point Ecoburn, west of Boulder Creek and east of Halford Creek

Stevensville Ranger District

  • Upper Larry Bass units, in the Bass Creek Recreation Area
  • Three Saddle units, in the Sapphire Mountains east of Stevensville

As always, the public is asked to avoid traveling in the areas as the burns happen. The fires will not be started if weather conditions don't meet temperature, wind and ventilation conditions to allow the least disturbance of Montana air quality standards.
The latest information is usually found at the Bitterroot National Forest Facebook page.

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