Montana Public Radio

Prescribed Burns Planned For The Flathead National Forest

Sep 9, 2019

After a tame fire season, the Flathead National Forest hopes to spark a number of prescribed burns in the coming weeks, but rain could limit how much work fire managers get done.

The Flathead National Forest released a list of 13 prescribed burns that range in size from 17 acres to over 1,000. Forest Fire Management Officer Rick Connell says one of larger burns Flathead Valley residents are likely to notice is located just north of Whitefish.

"And we’ve got five units up there and we’ll see when we come to burning which ones we will do. We’re not going to do all five at the same time."

Individual burns could be nearly 300 acres and Connell hopes to complete the project over the next couple of years. The burns are aimed at preventing a larger wildfire that could contaminate the city’s water source. It’s also intended to improve deer habitat.

The 1,000-acre Lindy Ridge Burn south of Flathead Lake near Condon is also likely to be noticeable along the Mission Mountain Wilderness.

Prescribed burns on the Flathead National Forest planned for fall 2019.
Credit Flathead National Forest

"We’ll be burning the exterior unit of the wilderness first to get that prepared. And the whole rationale for this burn is so that fires that start up higher and away from the border of the wilderness have less likelihood of leaving the wilderness."

Connell says most burns proposed each year aren’t completed. When and where fire managers are able to burn largely depends on approval from state regulators managing air quality. He says approval is fluid and depends on a number of factors.

"What the weather's gonna be like, how much vertical mixing of the atmosphere is there going to be, who all wants to burn, what do they want to burn, is it valley bottom burning, mid slope, is it upper slope?"

Rainy weather in the forecast could delay some of this year’s burns. Connell says the Flathead National Forest will try to notify the public about larger burns through local news outlets and will also update when and where smaller burns are taking place on social media.

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