Smoke over Black Ridge signals start of BLM burn season

By: Aaron Luna Email
By: Aaron Luna Email

You might have noticed the large plumes of smoke billowing from the top of Black Ridge Tuesday, it is a fire, but it's not a wildfire. It’s a controlled burn being conducted by the Bureau of Land Management.

Instead of fighting fires today BLM crews were starting them. "For today's burning we are using the standard drip torch," says Gary Helming, ignition specialist for Tuesday’s burn.

Burn Boss trainee Sam Dearstyne says Tuesday's burn marks the start of the BLM’s burn season. "You should start to see more and more smoke spring and fall as the programs keep rolling so its not... its business as usual for the BLM," says Dearstyne.

And Tuesday's business was to clear brush and fuel in the Black Ridge area of Glade Park. Helming says, "The project does serve as a fuel beak for the VOR site here and some of the communication towers."

A prescribed burn like this not only reduces fuels and underbrush in case of an accidental fire it also improves the area for wildlife to move back in, in this case specifically, the Sage Grouse.

Dearstyne says, "Sage Grouse are stating to become less and less popular as their numbers decline so we are trying to increase their habitat."

Crews will burn more than 100 acres Tuesday. Something weather has permitted them from doing in the past. And with houses within miles of the area they have to be especially careful.

Officials say new grass will start popping back up in about a day after the burn, but thanks to this fire, one thing that won't be back is more flames. "You won't get catastrophic fire events," says Dearstyne. A good reason for these fire crews to take a day off from fighting fires to starting a few of their own.

Fire officials say while prescribed burns cost money its something they budget for throughout the year.

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