Do not be concerned if within the next week or so you see smoke (maybe possibly flames) if you are driving Interstate 80 in the direction of Medicine Bow National Forest. Even though drought conditions still prevail, and already there is a forest fire in Utah, what might be seen is nothing to be concerned about.
In the coming weeks, USDA Forest Service fire staff will look for windows of opportunity to conduct prescribed burns on the Pole Mountain unit of the Medicine Bow National Forest. Daily decisions to burn will be dependent on fuel and weather condition alignment.
If conditions are favorable, burning could take place at multiple locations this spring. For the most up-to-date information pertaining to exact dates, times and locations, follow the Medicine Bow National Forest official social media pages: @FS_MBRTB on Twitter or @FSMBRTB on Facebook.
Smoke from the burns will likely be visible to the public from Interstate 80, Happy Jack Highway (Highway 210), and nearby forest roads.
Firefighters are primarily targeting the understory in stands of large ponderosa pine, as well as juniper patches and deteriorating aspen stands. The targeted areas are currently surrounded by snow, black line from previous burns, or green, moist vegetation, which acts as a fire break and is necessary to conduct these types of prescribed burns.
In general, burn areas will vary in size consisting of anywhere from a couple acres to 300 acres at a time. Cumulative acres will total approximately 1,300. The work is part of the ongoing Pole Mountain Vegetation Project in eastern Albany County.
Area roads are seasonally closed for motorized travel, however dispersed recreation in the burn areas may be impacted. Staff will be making personal contact with recreationists regarding any temporary closures. Signs will be placed on adjacent roads notifying the public of the burns as necessary. Fire staff from the Forest Service will continue to monitor the burned areas following the operations.
Staff will primarily use drip torches to carry out the burning. For safety and effectiveness, operations will not be initialized if weather conditions are unfavorable. Necessary smoke permits will be obtained from the State of Wyoming and adhered to throughout the project.
Prescribed burning is a versatile forest management tool that can mimic historically natural fire disturbances, reduce hazardous fuels buildup, and improve habitat for a variety of wildlife. Minimal and managed smoke from prescribed fires now helps prevent the potential for more unpredictable and hazardous wildfire smoke in the future.
ABOUT PRESCRIBED BURNS
Work on the Pole Mountain Vegetation Project began in 2014. Nearly 9,000 acres were authorized to be treated over a period of approximately 10 years, with the goal being the return to a resilient, diverse, and historically healthy forest.