BOZEMAN – Now that Montana’s wildfire season in full swing, you should know what the warnings and evacuation from local law enforcement mean.
If a fire is detected, law enforcement agency will first assess the dangers and potential of the event.
“Based on how they think the fire may behave and how quickly it might move they’ll typically identify some management action points that identify actions they’ll take if the fire gets to that point,” said Patrick Lonergan, Director of Emergency Management for Gallatin County.
“So that can include fire suppression activities, ordering more resources or when we talk about affected populous, often times that includes warnings and evacuations of subdivisions and other places.”
Most counties have a two-step process — first, the sheriff’s office will issue a warning, then if conditions worsen, an evacuation.
“If you get a warning from a sheriff’s deputy or other law enforcement agency that’s saying ‘hey, there’s an incident going on in the area there’s a high likelihood that it could affect you,’ you need to prepare to leave,” Lonergan added.
Just because an evacuation order is given doesn’t necessarily mean you have to leave, but it is strongly advised. Lonergan said that if an evacuation order is given you should play it safe.
“When we ask somebody to evacuate there’s a reason for that and sometimes it doesn’t always seem obvious in the front side but it’s based on all the experience of the public safety professionals and our best guess of what we think might happen.”
“The sheriff’s office and law enforcement don’t take that lightly, so if they ask you to evacuate you should probably do so,” said Lonergan.
County law enforcement agencies will do their best to contact anyone in the evacuation zone individually but there’s no state law in place to where legal action can be taken to people who choose not to evacuate.
The sheriff’s office can issue evacuation orders for a number of different events such as hazardous material spills, and other weather events that are life-threatening to residents.