Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site Begins Long-Awaited Prescribed Fire Project

View of the burned area with green grass after the burn.
Green grass already covers the area 60 days post-burn.

Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site (GRKO) sits adjacent to Deer Lodge, Montana, with just the Clark Fork River and a railroad track separating the ranch from the town. The riparian area is choked with thick, decadent brush fuels and flashy grass fuels that are ripe to burn. During dry conditions, trains often ignite fires, potentially posing a threat to both historic structures on the ranch and Deer Lodge. Prescribed fires in the riparian area have been the preferred alternative in the fire management plan since 2004. Finally in 2012, fire managers from Glacier National Park (GRKO’s fire support park) were able to conduct the first four-acre burn.

A firefighter is surrounded by tall grasses and riparian shrubs.
A firefighter checks the fuel loading before the prescribed fire.

The initial burn in 2012 was surrounded by an oxbow of the river on the north end of the ranch, furthest from structures. This spring, fire crews are hoping to burn a four-acre plot that is also heavily vegetated and close to structures.

Firefighters head toward a small hill in a utility vehicle lighting grasses using a drip torch.
Firefighters ignite grass surrounding the riparian area.

Due to its location near structures and the decadent fuels, the riparian area is fairly complex to burn. But what makes planning and implementing prescribed fires even more challenging is the fact that the Clark Fork River corridor is a Superfund site, designated in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA). As part of the Superfund cleanup efforts, the CERCLA coordinator at Grant-Kohrs was working with the park’s integrated resource manager to remove vegetation along the river and restore native plants.

Prescribed fires at GRKO require close coordination with both park staff and fire crews from Glacier and the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. The USFS crews also help conduct annual ditch and pile burning in GRKO.

Contact: Dave Soleim, Glacier National Park fire management officer
Email: e-mail us
Phone: (406) 888-5803

Last updated: January 26, 2017