Fire danger moved to “extreme”

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The fire danger has been increased to “extreme” for most of northwest Montana.

The designation is in place for the Flathead National Forest and state Department of Natural Resource and Conservation land. Glacier National Park remains at a fire danger of “very high.”

Interagency fire managers say this week may be the hottest of the summer so far with temperatures expected to exceed 100 degrees. While cooler temperatures are forecasted this weekend, high winds are also expected.

Scarce precipitation in the past month means that grasses and forest vegetation is continuing to dry, and this trend is expected to continue. Any spark has the potential to ignite a wildfire, according to a press release from the DNRC.

Fire restrictions are considered when fire danger is high to extreme, but other factors such as availability of firefighting resources, large-fire activity in an area, and the number of human-caused wildfires are considered as well. So, while fire danger conditions may be extreme, not all areas are in fire restrictions at this time.

Interagency fire managers understand that fire restrictions affect the public and refrain from implementing restrictions until they are determined to be necessary. Fire restrictions are reevaluated by cooperating interagency fire managers each week and updated as the situation dictates.

There are currently no restrictions in Flathead County, Flathead National Forest, the Stillwater, Swan, and Kalispell Units of the Montana DNRC, and Glacier National Park.

Fire managers are asking that residents and visitors alike check with the appropriate land management agency or to know if there are any fire restrictions in the area. Even if there are not restrictions in an area, please consider whether the activity you are planning is necessary and prudent given the conditions.

The Kootenai National Forest, Lincoln County, and Libby Unit of the DNRC are currently in Stage 1 fire restrictions.

Sanders County and the Plains Unit of the DNRC will be going into Stage 2 restrictions on Friday, Aug. 10.

Lake County and the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribe lands will also be entering Stage 2 fire restrictions on Friday, Aug. 10, but the north part of Lake County and the Swan will not be in restrictions.

Stage 1 fire restrictions prohibit: Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire or campfire unless noted in the exemptions found on the website including in an established steel fire grate, and smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least three-feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.

Stage 2 fire restrictions prohibit: building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire or campfire, smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials. In addition, operating any internal combustible engine, welding, or operating acetylene or other torch with open flame, using an explosive, and operating motorized vehicles off designated roads and trails are prohibited between 1 p.m. and 1 a.m., and a one-hour foot patrol in the work area is required following the cessation of all activities.

Forest industry professionals of Weyerhaeuser and Stoltze Lumber Companies are voluntarily applying best management practices by proactively ceasing operations during the hottest part of the day and enforcing a one-hour fire-watch before departing the site.

Fireworks are never allowed on public lands and they are not a good idea during fire season.

Fire officials remind folks that for a campfire, keep fires small, never leave a fire unattended, and extinguish completely before leaving the area. To put out your fire, use water and dirt, then stir. Do not leave until the fire is cold to the touch.

In addition, folks are reminded to adjust trailer chains so they are not dragging, as dragging chains throw sparks and can start fast-moving road-side grass fires. Broken axles, flat tires, and catalytic converters have all started roadside wildfires. Have a fire extinguisher or five-gallons of water handy and be ready for the unexpected.

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