FRENCHTOWN — The early start to fire season in combination with sustained high temperatures is concerning for local rural fire departments.
The Frenchtown Rural Fire District tells MTN News they’ve had about 100 more emergency calls to their department compared to this time last year, and they’re asking folks to prepare for the potential of a wildfire hitting close to home.
“It's really lining up to be one of the hottest summers on record already," Mel Holtz, Frenchtown Rural Fire Public Information Officer said. "We normally don't see that again till a little bit later, those 100-degree temperatures, so we are in an urgent period right now, where we're asking homeowners to prepare.”
Typically located within the wildland-urban interface - a transition zone between unoccupied land and human development - these homes carry an elevated risk of fire contact in Montana.
“We're really encouraging homeowners to look now if they need to call their local fire department to help get a home assessment," Holtz said.
After an initial assessment, crews visit your site to clear out flammable debris and thin trees to help make your home more likely to survive a wildfire. Cost shares and financial aid programs are often available.
You can also request a site visit for a wildfire risk assessment through the MT Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation here.
"That's what we really want to work with homeowners, is preparing their house for if a wildfire does come through and how to make it more defendable,” Holtz said.
In the meantime, homeowners can do their part by clearing dead and dying materials like pine needles, pine cones, and brush away from their home and property.
Embers can travel a mile ahead of a fire, so installing screens under a home reduces the likelihood of embers passing through. More details from Fire Adapted Missoula County on wildfire home preparation can be found here.
In addition, prepare now for a possible evacuation by gathering important materials and planning a route out of your neighborhood.
“Now is the time to be preparing to gather some of those important materials. Family photos, those types of things that if you do need to get out at a moment's notice, you can grab some of those items and get out safely,” Holtz emphasized.
And of course, do your part to prevent wildfires. As of Saturday, Missoula County has implemented Stage 2 Fire Restrictions.
Preventing human-caused fires will make a positive difference in resource management this hot summer.
“We're really asking for zero human-caused starts to this season. We're already seeing resources stretched thin with all the little pockets of fires that we have around the area," Holtz said. "So if we don't have to dedicate any resources to somebody who didn't put their campfire out or a human-caused start, it's really going to help us get resources out to the other fires that really need it."