MISSOULA - Fourth of July weekend celebrations bring campfires and fireworks but fire agencies want you to keep some things in mind to prevent the possibility of wildfires.
"Eighty percent of the wildfires in Montana are human-caused,” noted Kristin Mortenson with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC).
The holiday weekend is a time for many to get out and recreate, but increased activity can mean increased potential for fires.
"Just be safe. I like people to have fun and enjoy it, just know where you're at, know your environment,” noted Missoula Rural Fire District (MRFD) Deputy Fire Marshall Dodd McDermott. “Be safe and be ready in case something does happen."
MFRD advises having water — or other means to suppress a fire — nearby.
Additionally, people should remember that fireworks are also restricted in some areas. "Fireworks are always, always prohibited on all state and federal public lands,” Mortenson said.
The Lolo National Forest recently hiked the fire danger to moderate, “but it is quickly approaching high,” cautioned Lolo National Forest Fire Prevention and Education Specialist Anna Henderson.
High temperatures along with the potential for lightning storms mean fires could get out of control quickly.
"You see green grasses, but at the bottom of those you also have dry and dead grasses, you have pine needles, and light fuels like small twigs and things,” McDermott explained. “And once they get warm for a while, the moisture gets out of them and they can ignite very, very rapidly."
Mortenson says if you are planning to have a campfire, make sure it's all the way out before you leave, “we make sure that campfire is dead out. We drown, stir, drown, feel."
A good rule of thumb that the agencies follow is that if it's too hot to touch, then it's too hot to leave.
DNRC Fire Protection Bureau Chief Matt Hall advised taking a few simple actions:
- Obey all fireworks restrictions. Remember, fireworks are prohibited on state and federal lands.
- Take extreme caution if using fireworks or lighting recreational fires this weekend.
- The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public, community-sponsored display.
- If you choose to light fireworks yourself, please light them one at a time and move away quickly.
- Once fireworks are done burning, douse them in water and make sure they are cool to the touch before putting them in the trash.
- Keep water and safety equipment on hand in case of a fire start from a firework.
- Don’t be afraid to call for help if a start burns quickly and the fire escapes.
To learn more about fire conditions and restrictions in your area, visit www.MTFireInfo.org.