Laramie residents and anyone who heads into the Medicine Bow National Forest should expect to see smoke as U.S. Forest Service crews begin to burn slash piles.

The fuels that will be burned are near communities, travel routes and popular recreation areas, and some of the fires will be highly visible. Such burns will be advertised closer to the date of ignition.

"Burning piles is a proven way of removing fuels and is a staple in our annual program of work," said Vern Bentley, fire management officer for the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland. "Our crews are well-trained and proficient in this type of work."

The past several years have seen many forest management projects completed, including removing dead trees from travel corridors and recreation areas as well as reducing hazardous fuels resulting from the bark beetle epidemic.

Those fuels now sit in piles, and the piles have to be burned to reduce the risk fire risk they pose.

Winter weather and shorter days make for ideal burning conditions by helping keep fires under control.

Of course, fire managers will be keeping an eye on weather forecasts, and burns will only begin if conditions are within the established parameters for safe, effective fires.

Burns will continue throughout the fall and winter as long as weather allows crews to get to the slash piles.

If you head into either national forest, you may see signs on roads notifying the public of prescribed fires. Closures are rarely necessary, but be on the look out for those too.

For more information, all the Forest Supervisor's Office in Laramie at 745-2300.