With the big change in the weather the past week, forest fire smoke may not be something you're giving much thought to right now.

But the Lolo National Forest is planning to implement fall prescribed burning projects over the next several weeks, pending conditions. Most of the planned burns include pile burning with some understory burns to reduce residual slash from thinning and timber harvest operations.

The landscapes on the Lolo National Forest are fire-dependent ecosystems which means frequent, low-intensity fire is essential for restoring forest health. Prescribed fire also helps to reduce hazardous fuels nearby communities and improve wildlife habitat by creating diversity of vegetation cover and stimulating new growth of shrubs, forbs and grasses.

Pending conditions, pile burning operations could begin as soon as today (Friday, Oct. 16) on the Missoula Ranger District in the Wishered Ridge, Lockwood Point, Sheep Mountain trailhead, and Mineral Peak Lookout Road areas, and on the Ninemile Ranger District in the Kreis Pond area. The Kreis Pond Campground will be temporarily closed while firefighters conduct pile burning operations in that area; however, no other recreation closures are planned for tomorrow. Those recreating in the areas of pile burning operations are advised to use caution and avoid locations where firefighters are working. Firefighters will be on-scene to implement and manage the pile burning. Smoke is anticipated to move up and to the east of burning operations with favorable smoke dispersion, and firefighters will monitor dispersion closely throughout the day.

Overnight, there is potential for smoke to settle in valley bottoms, but it is anticipated to dissipate within 1-3 days. Fire managers plan to conduct the burning quickly, with limited impacts to recreational users and the general public. Depending on location, residents and visitors can expect to see and smell some smoke each day during burning operations.

Our thanks to the Lolo National Forest for letting us help spread the word.