Forest Service Prepares for Prescribed Burns

Open burning permitted through end of month, but officials say an out-of-control debris fire along KM Ranch Road a reminder to be cautious

By Justin Franz

Spring is in the air and for many landowners in Northwest Montanan that means burning off debris and underbrush ahead of summer, including one of the biggest land mangers, the U.S. Forest Service.

But a small debris fire that quickly consumed 31 acres of land on April 2, serves as a reminder that the risk for wildfire is still great this time of year. Officials urge residents to use caution when burning.

According to Flathead County Fire Service Area Manager Lincoln Chute, a landowner was burning debris when he lost control of the fire. Firefighters from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, West Valley, South Kalispell, Smith Valley, Evergreen and Whitefish all responded to the scene along KM Ranch Road and quickly contained the blaze, but not before it destroyed some nearby outbuildings and a car. Chute recommended people always have the tools to douse any debris fire.

“Put a little sun and some wind on a fire it will rip,” he said.

Burn permits are not required from now until April 30. DNRC permits are required to burn in May and June and all burning, except for campfires, is prohibited in July, August and September.

The Flathead National Forest will be conducting a number of prescribed fire projects this spring, when weather, fuel conditions and air quality are favorable. Smoke will be visible in the valley at times because of the projects, officials said.

On the Swan Lake Ranger District, burning will take place on and around Blacktail Mountain near Lakeside. Burning will also take place in the Swan Valley and around the Swan Lake Ranger Station near Bigfork.

On the Tally Lake Ranger District, burning will take place near two recent timber projects and in wildland-urban areas near Radnor and Whitefish to reduce fuels near homes and neighborhoods.

On the Hungry Horse Ranger District, burning will take place near Big Creek, Coram and Hungry Horse.

U.S. Forest Service officials encourage local residents to follow them on social media, including Facebook and Twitter, to find out exactly when prescribed burns will take place.

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