Neighborhood NewsGreat Falls - Cascade County


Controlled burn underway near Benton Lake

Controlled burn near Benton Lake
Benton Lake
Posted at 10:43 AM, Apr 23, 2024

GREAT FALLS — The U.S. Forest Service began conducting a controlled burn around Benton Lake on Tuesday, April 23, 2023.

They will be burning more than 300 acres at the Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Residents will likely see large plumes of smoke.

Covering 12,383 acres (19 square miles), the Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge is about 12 miles north of Great Falls.

Despite its name, Benton Lake is actually a 6,000-acre shallow wetland created by the last continental glacier thousands of years ago.

Benton Lake

Here is the video transcript provided by Paul Sanchez:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducts a controlled burn of over 300 acres today.

Kevin Beck the Assistant Fire Management Officer told me that, We have two main objectives of this burn is to reduce, wildland fire risk on the refuge. As well as, ecological burn for the grasses and, the wildlife, here in the northern plains, for the native prairie has, evolved with fire over thousands of years as well as grazing. We don't really have any grazing here on the refuge. So we do what we can with fire.

These controlled burns help Mother Nature rejuvenate and nourish these grasslands.

Shay Piedalue Wildlife Refuge Specialist from the Fort Peck Field Station at the CMR National Wildlife Refuge shared, I started fire when I was a seasonal back in 2009, I believe was the first year I laid fire on the ground. And, ever since then, it's, turned me into a firebug. so I've become, collateral duty firefighter, which is really nice that I can. Part of my job is my normal activities of habitat management, for the most part. but being able to do fire is probably one of my favorite things.

Kevin added we did really good. I'd like to, thank the Lewis and Clark hotshots. without those guys, we would have a hard time burning. And, with all the collateral duty staff and the fire staff, we had just enough people. I like to shout out to Malmstrom Air Force Base, they helped us out as a contingency resource.

As the smoke clears, you know that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has done their job.