DFO_Pile_Burning_2021 photo by Emily Guiberson.jpg

The Bureau of Land Management plans to burn slash piles like these in the coming months in Beaverhead and Madison counties.

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Pile burning is starting soon near Livingston, Big Timber and Dillon, federal officials announced on Tuesday.

Snowfall and cooler weather mean fire and fuels managers are ready to burn piles at select spots in the Yellowstone and Gardiner ranger districts of the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

That work should start this week, Forest Service officials wrote in a news release.

In Yellowstone Ranger District, officials are planning to torch slash piles from a commercial timber harvest in the East Boulder area south of Big Timber. Additional piles around Derby Gulch are also scheduled to be burned.

Hand piles will be burned in the Elk Creek area south of Big Timber, where work to reduce fuels has been taking place. South of Livingston, piles will be burned near the Snowbank Trailhead up the Mill Creek drainage.

In the Crazy Mountains, officials plan to burn piles in the Smith Creek and Upper Shields River area, as well as the Half Moon Campground in Big Timber Canyon.

Bob Culbreth, zone fire management officer, said in the release that pile burning is occurring mainly to reduce hazardous fuels and enhance defensible space.

“Burning was planned for the fall, but conditions haven’t permitted it until now, so we are happy to move forward with reducing fuels in these critical areas on the landscape,” he said.

In the Gardiner Ranger District, the Forest Service is set to burn piles at the OTO Homestead — a site north of Yellowstone National Park that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Officials expect the work will make the homestead more defensible in the event of a wildfire.

Further west, the Bureau of Land Management is planning to burn slash piles in Beaverhead and Madison counties in the coming winter months.

Work to torch piles will begin this week near Lemhi Pass at spots where timber sales and wildlife habitat restoration projects have occurred, officials wrote.

Smoke may be visible for several days at areas around Grant and Dillon, according to the agency. It could also be visible at spots near Alder and Sheridan.

In Beaverhead County, people might spot smoke around Lemhi Pass, Horse Prairie, Badger Pass and East Fork Blacktail. In Madison County, people might see smoke around California Creek, Gibbs Creek and multiple areas around the South Tobacco Roots.

“The timing of these burns depends on weather and fuel conditions,” BLM officials wrote. “The slash piles will be burned when the ground is snow-covered, or when the surrounding fuels are wet enough to minimize the potential for unwanted fire spread.”

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Helena Dore can be reached at hdore@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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