HAMILTON — Officials are raising the fire danger on the Bitterroot National Forest due to the extremely hot weather and dry fuel conditions.
The fire danger will be raised to “high” beginning Wednesday.
When fire danger is “high” fires will start from most causes. Fires will spread rapidly, and short-distance spotting is common, notes Bitterroot National Forest spokesman Tod McKay. Additionally, fine dead fuels ignite readily, and unattended brush and campfires are likely to escape.
Forest officials are asking the public to be extremely careful when camping and to remember to properly maintain and extinguish campfires.
“We are several weeks ahead of normal with our current conditions resembling mid-to-late July,” said Fire Management Officer Mark Wilson. “Things are drying out quickly this year, and spring rains resulted in a good crop of grass that can feed a wildfire. People need to be careful when camping, driving in the backcountry and cutting firewood.”
“High” fire danger was not declared “high” until July 15. This year, firefighters on the Bitterroot National Forest have extinguished 11 human-caused fires and five lightning fires.
Those planning camping trips should follow these fire safety tips:
- Keep campfires small and completely extinguish them before leaving camp. The best method is to douse the fire with water, stir the ashes and douse again, making sure that all ashes are cold to the touch. It is illegal to have unattended campfires.
- Smokers should light up only in areas cleared of all flammable debris. Cigarette butts should never be thrown from vehicle windows.
- Those exploring the forest and backcountry in vehicles must stay on established roads and trails and avoid driving over dry grass and brush that could be ignited by hot exhaust systems.
- Firewood cutters should operate chainsaws equipped with spark arresters in the cool morning hours and keep a shovel and fire extinguisher nearby.
- Fireworks are illegal on public lands: every forest, every campsite, every day. Never light fireworks in the woods.
- Recreational shooting? Take precautions! Never shoot into dry vegetation and always make sure you’re shooting in a safe location, away from roads, trails, campsites, and occupied areas. Be aware that shooting exploding targets is prohibited on National Forest System lands. Click here for more information.
- Know before you go. Always check with your local Ranger Station prior to your trip to get the most up-to-date information on fire danger and fire restrictions for the area.