I-80 Summit East (WYDOT)

CASPER, Wyo. — Smoke is expected to be “very visible” along Interstate 80 in Wyoming from Cheyenne to Laramie due to prescribed burns planned for this week, according to the United States Forest Service.

The Forest Service said on Monday that crews will be conducting prescribed burns in the Pole Mountain area of the Medicine Bow National Forest this week and that people do no need to report smoke emanating from the planned operations.

Smoke is expected to be visible from I-80, Happy Jack Highway (WYO 210) and Forest roads in the area.

“Firefighters are primarily targeting the understory in stands of large ponderosa pine, as well as juniper patches and deteriorating aspen stands,” the Forest Service says. “The targeted areas are currently surrounded by snow, black line from previous burns, or green, moist vegetation, which acts as a fire break and is necessary to conduct these types of prescribed burns.”

Burns planned for the spring vary in size but cumulative acreage for the planned operations is around 1,300 acres. The burns are part of the on-going Pole Mountain Vegetation Project.

“Staff will primarily use drip torches to carry out the burning,” the Forest Service says. “For safety and effectiveness, operations will not be initialized if weather conditions are unfavorable. Necessary smoke permits will be obtained from the State of Wyoming and adhered to throughout the project.”

“Prescribed burning is a versatile forest management tool that can mimic historically natural fire disturbances, reduce hazardous fuels buildup, and improve habitat for a variety of wildlife. Minimal and managed smoke from prescribed fires now helps prevent the potential for more unpredictable and hazardous wildfire smoke in the future.”

Recreation in the area could be impacted and Forest Service staff will make “personal contact with recreationists regarding any temporary closures.” Signage will also be placed on roads adjacent to burn areas as necessary.

“Daily decisions to burn will be dependent on fuel and weather condition alignment,” the Forest Service says. “If conditions are favorable, burning could take place at multiple locations this spring. For the most up-to-date information pertaining to exact dates, times and locations, follow the Medicine Bow National Forest official social media pages: @FS_MBRTB on Twitter or @FSMBRTB on Facebook.”

The Pole Mountain Vegetation Project began in 2014 with nearly 9,000 acres authorized for prescribed burn treatments over about a 10 year period “with the goal being the return to a resilient, diverse, and historically healthy forest.”

“For more information about this project contact Central Zone Fire Management Officer Flavio Gallegos at (307) 745-2373 or Jerod DeLay, Fuels Assistant Zone Management Officer, at (307) 745-2497,” the Forest Service said. “More information about prescribed fire can be found on our website.”