PHILIPSBURG – Hundreds of people who were living in the woods dealt with Montana’s worst fire season in decades, but now that the fires are out what happens in those forests?

MTN’s Chet Layman went to the site of Meyers Fire near Philipsburg and found out that the work to rehab Montana’s forests actually began before the flames were out.

While the work was ongoing fighting the 62,000 acre Meyers Fire in Granite County, so was the rehab work. The activities go hand-in-hand.

“Part of the whole other end of the fire suppression is all the damage that we do, and all the activity that we do in the woods in and around private property or just on our own agency ground we try to go back in and fix it,” said Pintler Ranger District engine foreman Gary Lambert.

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“Anything that was directly related to suppression actions of the fire — where we have put in some clipper lines or some fuel breaks…putting in some fencing to just limit travel off-road to protect some wet areas down below. So that would be that first phase,” explained Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest soil scientist Sara Rouse.

The work underway at the site of the Meyers fire involves repairing 15 miles of dozer lines, 3½ miles of handlines, seven miles of fuel breaks and 101 log decks to sell.

The second phase of the project is working where the fire actually burned by reseeding the area, performing erosion control and doing road and trail maintenance. The Meyers fire claimed 15 bridges in the Pintler Wilderness and hundreds of trees are now blocking miles of trails.

As a local person on this district that will be dealing with this for quite some time, it’s interesting to see how…fire that’s been going on for months and months has evolved and changed and all the effort that folks have put into getting it squared away,” Rouse said.

“Then a final…thing that is probably in our rehab would be just the ending product, and that’s blading and grading the road to make it still accessible and still usable for the next event,” Lambert said.

That work must be done on almost 58 miles of roads where the Meyers Fire burned. While the blaze may now be out, the work has just begun.

Because some of the trail work was going on in the Pintler Wilderness Area, traditional tools were not allowed. That means over a three-week period of time more than 500 trees were cut by using two-man crosscut saws.

Before winter set in, 20 crewmembers cleared more than 20 miles of trail in the Meyers Fire burned area. Work will begin again next spring.

MTN’s Chet Layman