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GREAT FALLS — The U.S. Forest Service is planning to set a series of fires on about 16 square miles of national forest in Montana to reduce the risk of high intensity wildfires.

The Great Falls Tribune reports the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest decided Friday to implement the fuel treatments in the Elk Smith Project, opening up a 45-day period to collect any public objections to the plan.

Forest Service district ranger Mike Munoz says dead trees and thick stands of lodgepole pine make the forest susceptible to carrying fire.

He says the prescribed fire project would create a safer environment for firefighters and property owners should a wildfire occur.

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He says burning the 15 forest units could take up to 10 years because of weather and fuel conditions

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