MT fire departments monitoring conditions as temps rise

Posted at 12:57 PM, Jul 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-09 14:57:49-04

HELENA – A hot and dry forecast has some local fire departments closely monitoring the fire conditions.

Tri-Lakes Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bob Drake says departments like his keep a close eye on something called the Energy Release Component (ERC).

The ERC score tells firefighters how severe a potential fire might be, and also helps determine the best way to attack the flames.

Right now, conditions are better than they were at this time last year, as noted by green vegetation that can still be found around the area. However, Drake warned those conditions can change very quickly, sometimes in a matter of days, or even hours. 

Drake said the ERC is used to decide whether or not to allow burning. Once the score reaches a certain level, the county sheriff is advised to close open burning.

“If you light it, you own it,” Drake said. “So if you light a debris burn and walk away from it and it gets away, then the houses it burns – the timber it burns, whatever it burns is your responsibility. Don’t take that lightly.”

Tri-Lakes Fire said it did respond to a couple fire calls related to Fourth of July fireworks this week, but fortunately, those fires were quickly brought under control.