HELENA — The Helena Ranger District performed a prescribed burn Thursday, on 60 acres of forest between Orofino and Grizzly Gulch.
U.S. Forest Service personnel say smoke may settle at the bottom of valleys and drainage, but it should clear up within a few days. Smoke from the operations will be visible through this weekend and into next week.
According to Fire Management Officer Shane Martin, they are trying to reduce what they call hazardous fuels in the area.
"We want to reduce the effects of wildfires in the area so that we are able to deal with it," explained Martin. "Also, this is the watershed for Helena, Tenmile drainage in this area, so we’re also looking to make sure we reduce the wildfire effects on any of the drinking water for the community too.”
The team of 30 working Thursday included an archaeologist who ensured that the fire damaged no historic mines.
Fire is a natural part of the area, Martin said, “Indigenous burning that Native Americans did to bring in the wildlife that they wanted in the area. So, most of the plants and animals in this area have evolved with fire and need fire.”
Since there is a trail in the area they are burning, signs will be posted to warn hikers not to go through.
“The biggest thing that could happen is if a tree got some fire damage in it, there’s potential for that tree to fall down, but if we find those, we’ll usually deal with them so there isn’t a threat to the trail. One other thing to watch out for is you can get stump holes that will burn and create a pile of ash and you don’t want to get too close to that because it can still remain hot for a while,” Martin said.