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Rattlesnake fire 9-6 (copy)

Rattlesnake National Recreation Area prescribed burns — like this one in 2018 — were taking place north of Missoula on Monday, according to the Lolo National Forest.

After a couple of deferred attempts, Missoula Ranger District fire crews got the right conditions to burn large segments of the Marshall Canyon area on Monday.

Smoke rose from numerous prescribed burn sites and slash along Missoula’s northern horizon Monday afternoon. The fires are part of the multi-year Marshall Woods project, intended to restore some overgrown meadow areas, remove hazardous fuel buildups, and improve forest health. 

"This burn was right above the old Marshall Mountain ski area," Lolo Forest burn officer Jessie Kurpius said on Monday. "We've burned about 300 acres. If conditions hold, we may burn another piece in the north end of Strawberry Ridge (in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area). That could happen in the next five to seven days."

The ranger district initially hoped to start the burns in mid-May, but unstable wind conditions, wet fuels and poor air quality postponed the ignitions. This week, fire crews used a helicopter to start some of the blazes. Visitors are warned to be aware of trail closures or other changes due to fire activity.

The Marshall Woods project has already completed erosion control work at the Spring Creek Bridge, hand-thinning in several areas along Marshall Canyon, and burning debris piles in the Woods Gulch area. Crews completed about 450 acres of prescribed burns in the Woods Gulch and Mount Jumbo Saddle areas last fall.

For more information, please contact the Missoula Ranger District at 329-3750.

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Natural Resources & Environment Reporter

Natural Resources Reporter for The Missoulian.