Escaped Fire Fully Contained
Firefighters at the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Montana contained an escaped prescribed fire on Monday, September 22. The burn was initially lit on September 9, but escaped containment lines when a cold front passed over the area three days later, bringing strong gusty winds with it.
The fire moved across the lines burning primarily in the brome grasses. It burned deep into the soil in a thick layer of dead grasses that had accumulated over several decades without fire in that area. This situation has required extra work for firefighters, as hot embers and ash burning deep underground need to be fully extinguished to ensure the fire is out.
The burn was lit in a high mountain valley to improve wetlands used by geese and ducks. In other parts of the valley which have recently burned, many more birds, moose, elk, deer, and antelope have arrived to browse the fresh vegetation. Fire typically stimulates plant growth by recycling nutrients back into the soil, providing a natural fertilizer.
The refuge staff is planning to burn more areas over the next several years. Future burns will rely on barriers such as streams and roads as containment lines to prevent escapes.
The refuge, located in southwest Montana, offers a unique setting surrounded by steep mountains reaching 10,500 feet. The remote area offers secluded habitat to a variety of species including trumpeter swans and white-faced ibis, as well as providing pristine streams for native fish.
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