The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

Mission Creek prescribed burn will treat timber above Hays


October 24, 2018

For Immediate Release

Contact: Lee Black Crow, Fire Management Officer

Phone number: 406-353-4874

Date: Friday, October 19, 2018 9:30 a.m.

Warm autumn days after a frost are fall prescribed burning season. Saturday, October 20, we plan our first prescribed fire in many years on the Fort Belknap Reservation, to help protect the town of Hays from a larger summer wildfire.

Ponderosa pine forests in the Little Rockies depended on occasional fires every decade or two to keep their presettlement condition: large, widely spaced grandfather trees with clear ground between.

Prescribed burns are small, carefully planned fires that maintain our forest. We leave large trees as we clear and fertilize the forest floor with ash from shrubs. We have planned to treat about 300 acres north of Mission Creek using low-intensity, careful firing patterns.

Before any test fire is lit, administrators review an 80-plus-page document that details required weather and vegetation conditions, staffing, expectations, and contingency plans. Fire managers with decades of practice and firefighters are assisting from the Crow, Fort Peck, Blackfeet, and Rocky Boy agencies. Crews are assigned to ignite or to hold the fire. Engines gather to dampen any large flames. Monitors collect data to evaluate fire effects on the vegetation.

Flames are often inches high rather than feet high. Smoke may collect from overnight smoldering, but it should be much less than from an uncontrolled summer wildfire. Ponderosa forest without any fire is like a home that is not repaired.

Landscapes like ours are created by wildfires: the question is not “if” they burn, but “when.” Depending on how it visits, fire can either hurt or rejuvenate our neighborhood. A carefully managed prescribed burn is a step toward giving fire its ancestral place in our mountains.


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