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Prevention, preparedness key to stopping Montana wildfires

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Posted at 11:02 AM, Jun 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-10 13:02:28-04

WHITEHALL — The National Interagency Fire Center is predicting Southwest Montana is going to be dealing with “above normal” fire potential this year.

"Fire is inevitable so we know it’s going to happen. We always plan for the worst because, to be honest, we never know what our fire season is going to be until after it’s already come," said Montana Department of Natural resources and Conservation (DNRC) Preparedness and Fire Prevention Specialist Kristin Mortenson.

With more people visiting parks during this dry time for Montana, preparation and prevention are key to help stop wildfires from spreading. Most wildfires are attributed to human activity with statistics showing 70-to-80% of fires are human-caused.

The leading cause of wildfires is debris burning with escaped or abandoned campfires second and equipment -- parking a vehicle on tall grass, target shooting, trailer chains dragging and causing a spark -- at number three.

The campgrounds have been full every single night since the reopening of Lewis and Clark State Park. Manager Rhea Armstrong said that the park takes precautions in order to decrease the chance of a wildfire.

"The first level of fire restriction is smokers have to in an area that’s safe to smoke so we have lots of those areas built in so even though there isn’t a restriction most of the ashtrays are already located in a spot that would be for that," Armstrong explained.

There are fire pits throughout the campsite. However, the fire pits that were located in the woods were taken out years ago because they thought it would be harder to control.

"If you have it in the fire ring we consider it safe, but any other place would be unsafe," said Armstrong.

But if a wildfire does start, make sure that you're prepared for the fire and smoke. The DNRC will provide a free wildfire risk home assessment by fire professionals

"Make sure we’re changing our air filters, getting ready for our smoke-filled air that probably will be coming, and preparing our homes and properties," said Mortenson.