Smoke filled the sky Thursday in the Bearlodge Mountains North West of Sundance, Wyoming; as crews burned brush in an effort to reduce fire danger. But the perfect fire conditions can be hard to find this time of the year.
Fighting fire with fire can be beneficial. "I think prescribed burning is one of our most valuable tools that we have within our tool box," said South Zone Fire Management Officer Gwen Lipp.
And in the Bearlodge prescribed burns have proven their worth. "This year alone we had about three or four fires that did burn adjacent to and burned into old broadcast burns and allowed us an opportunity to get out in front of it and keep the fire small," said North Zone Fire Management officer Bryan Karchut.
But conditions need to be just right before crews start burning. "We try to shoot for that 60 to 70 degree range; we really look at that 25% to 35% relative humidity and relatively light winds," said Karchut. "We want to be able to control the fire on our terms."
Earlier this summer fire crews were wondering if they would be able to do any prescribed burns this fall. "We didn't even think last week that we would be in the conditions that we are now," said Karchut.
And in the Southern Hills, that's still the case. "The drought is really hurting us as far as our prescribed fire program," said Lipp. "Our fuel moistures are still really dry. We haven't quite gotten as much moisture as the northern hills has received in the last, you know really all summer."
But Lipp says the burns are important, and they'll wait until Mother Nature is ready. "I hope that in the future, maybe later this fall once we get a little bit more moisture we'll be able to do some prescribed burning," said Lipp.
There are several more prescribed burns that crews hope to complete this fall in the Bearlodge; as long as the conditions cooperate.