Fall is here, and the Bitterroot National Forest’s first seasonal prescribed burns could begin Saturday in the Lake Como/Lost Horse area. The planned blazes allow managers to remove excess forest fuels and downed timber.
Though few relish the smoke, Bitterroot Forest spokesman Tod McKay said prescribed burns are critical in preparing for the next fire season.
“Fighting fire with fire now really means that come next summer, we won’t have these out-of-control, catastrophic wildfires where all summer we’re breathing smoke, and not to mention threatening homes and private property and so forth," he said.
McKay added that burning excess slash and debris can also improve wildlife habitat, especially for big game.
Bitterroot managers plan to burn 4,100 acres through October, mostly in the Darby/Sula and West Fork districts. That’s higher acreage than usual because the planned helicopter ignitions are capable of covering more ground.
Smoke will likely be visible southwest of Darby and Hamilton and east of Stevensville, as well as from the West Fork Highway and East Fork Road.
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