HELENA — A prescribed burn north of York removed at least 100 acres of potential wildfire fuel and created a column of smoke that was visible for miles.
Preventing and mitigating wildfires is one of the main reasons fire crews come through and burn up fuel on the forest floor. That fuel is anything from dead and dry grasses and shrubs to fallen trees.
By mimicking the effects of a natural wildfire in a controlled fashion, they are keeping the forests safer from wildfires. They are essentially fighting fire with fire.
Not only does burning the forest floor help mitigate the effects and potentially reduce the intensity of wildfires, but they also promote new growth in the ecosystems. Ridding the forest floor of excess needles and young tree saplings promotes faster growth for native flowers and grasses while also sustaining and helping older, larger trees.
Fire Management Officer for the Helena Ranger District, Mike Kaiser, helped oversee the controlled burn on Thursday.
“In addition to all the benefits of reducing fuels on the landscape, prescribed burns like this are very beneficial for wildlife...” says Kaiser.
For example, Kaiser says that the smoke attracts certain types of bugs that feed wild turkeys. And the faster growth of grass and flowers from prescribed burns in turn provides a fresh food source for animals like elk and deer.