Each year, the Bitterroot National Forest, instead of putting fires out, starts a few. Coming soon, weather permitting, the prescribed burning projects will be conducted on the three ranger districts, according to Bitterroot National Forest Public Affairs Officer Tod McKay. The burns could start as early as the week of October 19, and most will cause smoke that will be visible from Hamilton, south of Darby and east of Stevensville. The smoke from the area burns and slash pile burns will only last a day or two. About 2,000 acres are on the burn schedule.

Stevensville Ranger District: Burn Piles covering about 30 acres will be lit in Three Saddle units east of Stevensville on Ambrose Road 428, and 9 acres of hand-piled wood from clearing and hazard repair at the Larry Creek Group site, the Gold Creek Campground and the Fred Burr trailhead on the western side of the valley.

Darby/Sula Ranger District: Burn Piles covering about 900 acres are planned - Canyon Creek west of Hamilton, Waugh Fuels Reduction south of Sula near Waugh Creek, East and West Tolan up the East Fork south of Sula, Westside 18 west of Charlos Heights and Cameron Blue 8 miles east of Sula on the north side of the East Fork.

West Fork Ranger District: Burn Piles of about 900 acres - Lower West Fork Unit 1 south of Pierce Creek, Frazier 65A north of Baker Creek, Lone Pine southwest of Ward Creek, School Point Bravo/Charlie between Wheeler and Nelson Creeks, Nez Perce Ranch along Nelson Creek, Two Creek east of Two Creek along forest roads 732 and 732A, Tough and Mud Saddle along forest road 5644, Painted Rocks West Units 1-4 south of Coal Creek and Overwhich Units 1-4 along Overwhich Creek.

McKay said the goals of the fires are to maintain forest health, improve wildlife habitat and reduce wildfire risks by getting rid of slash created by thinning and firewood cutting.

The fires are done in coordination with county and state health officials, with special attention to air quality. The public should be aware of fire crews and vehicles and try to avoid those prescribed burn areas. More information is always available at the Bitterroot National Forest Facebook page or at their official website.