Fire Danger Rises to ‘High’ in Flathead Valley

By Beacon Staff

Fire danger in the Flathead Valley is rising and is now considered “high,” according to fire managers.

The U.S. Forest Service announced Tuesday the heightened fire danger on the Flathead National Forest and public lands in the valley, signaling an increased likelihood that fuels such as grass will ignite easily. Temperatures are forecasted to remain in the low 90s throughout the week and light fuels have dried out considerably in recent weeks, according to fire officials.

Although fire danger is elevated, no restrictions are currently planned for the Flathead Valley, according to Wade Muehlhof, a public information officer with the Forest Service. But that could change in the near future, he said.

Stage I restrictions will go into effect on Aug. 1 for west-central Montana, meaning campfires outside of designated campsites will be prohibited. There also will be no smoking outside of cities unless it is in an enclosed vehicle or building, or in an area clear of flammable materials.

Fire officials on Monday said the fire danger is extreme in Lolo National Forest and very high in Missoula County.

The warnings come as firefighters were trying to keep a new blaze in check near the former Stimson Lumber Co. mill in Bonner.

At least a half-dozen significant fires are burning in Montana, the largest at 9.5 square miles in the Lolo forest near Superior.

In the Flathead Valley, unattended campfires and brush fires are likely to escape, according to fire managers. Fires will spread easily, with some areas of high-intensity burning on slopes or concentrated fuels.

Muehlhof said fires can become serious and difficult to control unless they are put out while they are still small.

The Forest Service’s announcement arrived on the 10 year anniversary of the Robert Fire in the North Fork area. The fire was human caused and burned 57,570 acres of National Forest and National Park land. The fire cost taxpayers nearly $31 million, according to the Forest Service.

“Human-caused wildfires can have devastating impacts unnecessarily destroying our natural resources, putting the public and our firefighters in danger, destroying homes and habitat and costing taxpayers millions every year,” Muehlhof said in a statement.

The USFS reminds residents to fully extinguish any campfire or cooking fire. Here are a few other tips:

— Never leave a campfire unattended, and be sure it is “dead out” before leaving the area.
— Have a bucket and shovel handy when having a campfire.
— Cigarette smokers should smoke on bare ground or soil (not in or near vegetation) and pack out their cigarette butts.
— Fireworks are prohibited in all national forests, national parks, state lands, and all private land the state identifies as classified forest land.

For more information about wildland fire education and prevention, visit here or contact a local office of the Flathead National Forest.

Hungry Horse Ranger District: 387-3800
Swan Lake Ranger District: 837-7500
Tally Lake Ranger District: 758-5204
Spotted Bear Ranger District: 758-5376

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