Bozeman, MT, October 19, 2023— Forest Service fire crews on the west side of the forest will be starting to burn debris piles as the season transitions from fall to winter. These activities may start as soon as the week of October 23rd and are anticipated to continue throughout the winter months. Piles consist of numerous small hand piles and larger machine-created piles from vegetation management activities. Forest Service crews will be accessing piles via roads and trails, lighting piles with handheld ignition devices. The firing operations may be visible throughout the Gallatin Valley during this time.
In the Bozeman Municipal Watershed project area, pile-burning activities will be concentrated in the Leverich, Moser, Hyalite, and Kirk Hill areas. In the North Bridgers Forest Health project area, activities will occur in the South Brackett, Battle Ridge, and Fairy Lake Road areas. Within the North Hebgen Multiple Resource project area, pile burning will occur near Denny Creek Road, Rainbow Point/Horse Butte, Whits, Red Canyon, and Tepee Creek areas. At this time, there are no road or trail closures anticipated in association with pile burning.
Burning will only take place when weather conditions are conducive for safe operations. Fire officials work with the National Weather Service to ensure weather conditions are favorable prior to burning, as well as MT Department of Environmental Quality, to ensure opportunities for smoke dispersal. Smaller individual piles will be mostly consumed in one day with limited smoke impact, but it is possible that some smoke and flames may be visible during operations. Larger machine piles are expected to be burned later in the season and may produce small amounts of smoke for more extended periods.
Debris piles are the product of vegetative management adjacent to communities and infrastructure and are part of the Forest Service’s effort to reduce hazardous fuel loading and minimize wildfire risk to our communities. The projects are providing more defensible space in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) to protect public and private infrastructure and increase public and firefighter safety. “I recognize the concern and sensitivity as it relates to prescribed fire,” said Corey Lewellen, Bozeman District Ranger. “We have a strategic plan in place to have the most successful prescribed fire operations and minimize impacts to the community. I greatly appreciate the community’s patience during our operations.”
For additional information, please contact either the Bozeman Ranger District at (406) 522-2520 or Hebgen Lake Ranger District at (406) 823-6961. Updated information can also be found on the Custer Gallatin National Forest Facebook page.