The area forests are showing some smoke, but it's all part of the U.S. Forest Service prescribed burning projects. For instance, Friday morning, a controlled burn was set near the world-famous Triple Creek Ranch on the West Fork Ranger District of the Bitterroot National Forest. The fire was about 80 acres in size and reduces available fuel when natural forest fires might pass through the area during the summer fire season, preventing an even larger blaze.

The Bitterroot National Forest has been busy this spring with a burn this week in the Sweeney Creek area near Florence. That was an under-burn of about 300 acres and included some Montana state forest land. Other fires include a 60-acre burn near the Springer/Bonanza area in the East Fork of the Darby/Sula Ranger District and near the Sam Billings Campground up the West Fork.

Earlier burns included fires near Lake Como on the Darby/Sula Ranger District and at the Bass Creek Recreation area on the Stevensville Ranger District. Tod McKay of the Bitterroot National Forest said the fire managers always are checking weather conditions such as wind or rain and try to burn on days when the smoke won't linger too long after the burn is complete. The burns have also been coordinated with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

Other forests are conducting burns, too. The Lolo National Forest has been burning in the Missoula Ranger District, the Ninemile Ranger District, the Seeley Lake Ranger District, the Superior Ranger District (photo above) and the Plains-Thompson Falls Ranger District.

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