There was a controlled burn in the Rattlesnake area on Tuesday, and residents in the area and on the north side reported air quality concerns reminiscent of last summer’s wildfires.

Air Quality Specialist with the Missoula City County Health Department, Sarah Coefield said she did notice the plume of smoke from the controlled burn.

“It was a very visible burn and folks who were nearer to it probably had a more personal experience with it that the folks in town,” said Coefield. “We heard from a person in the north side neighborhood when the smoke mixed down in the afternoon, and I think a lot of folks are super aware of after this last wildfire season, so having the smell and the smoke back was quite shocking for folks to experience in the spring.”

That being said, Coefield said spring burning is a vital tool that forest officials use to help reduce the chance of wildfires in the coming season.

“Spring burning is a great tool for ecological restoration and also for protection from fires,” she said. “There’s a lot of research that has shown if you apply fire to the landscape when it’s safe to do so, then should a wildfire come across that area it will moderate that fire’s activity. The county has a goal. We want there to be fire on the landscape because it is a fire-adapted ecosystem, so there will be spring burning that happens, but we do try to time it in such a way that the smoke has as minimal an impact as possible.”

The U.S. Forest Service will continue to let the community know where and when controlled burns will take place, conditions and weather permitting.

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