STEVENSVILLE — There's been fire smoke over the Bitterroot Valley recently, bt it's the kind of "good smoke" coming from operations to improve fire safety and forest health.
After days of watching for the perfect weather conditions, crews from Bitterroot National Forest were finally able to ignite a large, prescribed burn at the Bass Creek Recreation Area north of Stevensville Friday morning.
Even with the recent rains and cooler weather, it took no time at all for much of the 250-acre tract to catch fire. But unlike a wildfire, a burn is a carefully controlled and monitored blaze which replicates the regular, natural fires critical to the forest ecology in the Northern Rockies. It's the next step after an extensive 700-acre thinning operation restored the stand in 2013.
"So the objectives for today were to really clean up the fuels that have been building up," explained Stevensville District Ranger Steve Brown. "Whether it's duff from needle cast or limbs that have fallen down or trees that have fallen down. But really just to keep that fuel at a manageable level."
Brown says that accomplishes several things, from recycling nutrients back into the soil, to creating a forest floor better able to retain water during the dry summers.
Bass Creek will remain closed through Saturday and could re-open to the public Sunday or Monday as the activity from the prescribed burn cools down. More information will be posted on the agency's Facebook page.