Firefighters shifting from wildland suppression to preventative measures

Rodney Ridge prescribed burn
Posted at 5:44 PM, Sep 19, 2023

HELENA — A general rule of thumb is to report large amounts of smoke when you see it, but the fire on Tuesday around the Rodney Ridge area south of Helena was a little different. The Helena Lewis and Clark National Forest conducted a prescribed burn in the area to help prevent wildfires in the future from getting out of hand.

This is a continuation of work that started in the spring of 2022 on the other side of the ridge line and is part of the Tenmile-South Helena Vegetation Project.

The goal is to reduce risk to firefighters, and the community, should a wildfire break out in the area in the future.

"The goal of today's prescribed burn is to reduce all the excess fuels in this area. That's right adjacent to the City of Helena, and so they're going to be looking at bringing fire down these ridge lines to reduce all the dead and downed fuels on the ground. I'm going to hold one up. You know, there's lots of branches like this that are lying all over and much bigger logs as well." said Public Affairs Officer for the Lewis and Clark County National Forest, Chiara Cipriano.

Crews with The Helena Ranger District plan to burn about 120 acres along Rodney Ridge.

"We have the Grayback Crews here, we have a crew from the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest, of course, Helena Lewis and Clark National Forest crews are here, and then kind of a handful of resources from Idaho and other national forests. So it's a it's a pretty big team from 70," said Cipriano.

Cipriano says the forest service agreed that Tuesday had the perfect conditions to conduct the prescribed burn.

"In the wilderness, urban interface, it's you know, it's really a short window of time that we have the right conditions. You know, the higher humidity levels were winds, the right fuel moisture levels, and so we have opportunities like this. We really, try to assemble the people we need quickly and be able to get on the ground," said Cipriano.

With the burning finished at around 3 p.m., Cipriano mentioned that smoke may still stick around into the evening, but it shouldn't be anything to worry about because the burn was conducted in accordance with Montana air quality standards.

"The goal is to complete the 120-acre unit by around three," said Cipriano, "So I will note that smoke does tend to linger in the evening. So we might see some smoke kind of settling in the valley this evening. But our fire managers do their best to minimize smoke impacts on the community."