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Wildfire, fire management and air quality news for western Montana and the Northern Rockies.

Controlled burns are in progress across the state

Residual smoke from the previous day's underburn operations north of the Main Rattlesnake Trailhead near Missoula, MT, Oct. 17, 2019.
Lolo National Forest

Firefighters are taking advantage of Montana’s unusually warm weather to ignite some controlled burns to reduce forest fuels. The goal is to prevent or minimize the impact of more destructive fires later in the summer.

A large plume of smoke north of Missoula Sunday alarmed some who wondered if wildfire season was off to an early start. It was instead an intentionally set fire to reduce tree density within the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area.

The Ninemile and Superior Ranger Districts plan prescribed fires on Tuesday. The Missoula Ranger District is planning a prescribed burn in Patty Canyon or Grant Creek on Wednesday.

These fires will be about 20-50 acres. Firefighters on the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest burned slash piles Monday between Neihart and White Sulphur Springs off Highway 89.

Northwest Montana’s Kootenai National Forest kicked off a series of burns Monday west of Troy totaling 1,000 acres. The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is conducting a series of burns around southwest Montana, including the Dillon area this spring.

Local weather conditions dictate when prescribed fire projects begin. Prescribed fire plans are often found on individual national forest Facebook pages.

Fireline probes the causes and consequences of the increasingly devastating wildfires burning in the U.S. It taps into the experience of firefighters, tribal land managers, climate scientists and more to understand how we got here and where we're going.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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