Missoula Ranger District plans 3 prescribed fires this spring

Prescribed burns typically remove understory growth to help reduce the danger of large, uncontrolled wildfires. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

The Missoula Ranger District plans to burn in three areas this spring, two of which are directly adjacent to Missoula.

All of the prescribed fires are subject to weather and smoke dispersal conditions.

Here’s a look at each of the burns:

One burning plan covers 80 acres in the Blue Mountain Recreation Area just west of Missoula.

The Blue Mountain Unit 24 understory prescribed burn is next to Blue Mountain Road near the Maclay Flat Trailhead. It is part of the Missoula Ranger District’s work to reintroduce low-intensity surface fire to the area, reduce surface fuel concentrations, promote ponderosa pine regeneration and rejuvenate the forest floor vegetation.

Another planned prescribed burn is north of Missoula in the Rattlesnake drainage adjacent to Sawmill Road.

The Sawmill 12 unit covers about 125 acres and is adjacent to the main Rattlesnake Trailhead. Objectives of Sawmill 12 include reducing crown fire potential by clearing downed fuels and ladder fuels, as well as increasing residual stand resilience to insect/disease disturbances.

The third prescribed burn is Butte Lookout 22, which is located in the Cooper Creek drainage southwest of Missoula off U.S. Highway 12.

That burn will cover 29 acres and objectives include reducing fuel and preparing the natural seedbed for seral species regeneration.

Smoke from these burns will be visible from Interstate 90, Highway 93, Highway 12 and the Missoula Valley.

All burning will be weather and fuel condition dependent, according to Boyd Hartwig, the Lolo National Forest’s public affairs specialist.

If ignition takes place, there is potential the burning could limit public access in these areas.  For public safety, recreationists are asked to be aware of fire crews and vehicles in all prescribed fire areas.

Prescribed fire signs will be posted at trailheads, adjacent roads as well as any forest trails near where burning is taking place.

The Lolo National Forest will post prescribed fire announcements on its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Lolo-National-Forest-409424909216306/ .