July 5, 2012
Wildfires are starting to get a hold in the state
By B.L. Azure
RONAN — The wildfire action is starting to pickup in Montana as the area enters its traditional fire season. In fact Montana has more acres burning than other hot spots in the nation including Colorado and Utah. Luckily no big fires have been reported on the Flathead Indian Reservation and the adjoining counties. But that could change with a drop of a match or cigarette, an errant fireworks or an unattended fire. With all that in the fire-potential mix, fingers-crossed fire managers are keeping a wary eye or two on the fire potential and warning the public to take precautions when recreating outdoors.
Curtiss Matt, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Division of Fire spokesperson, announced Monday that all Flathead Reservation burning permits have been cancelled and no new burning permits would be issued until further notice.
The fire indices are “Moderate” on the east portion of the Flathead Reservation, and “High” on the arid west portion of the reservation.
Montana, as of Monday, had 10 large wildfires burning, mostly in the eastern portion of the state — that’s three more than Colorado and two more than Utah. The other fires are getting the national headlines because they have had more structures including homes destroyed and affect more people.
In Colorado 722 buildings have burned in 152,000 acres of fire while Montana has lost 275 in more than 250,000 acres of fire. The Ash Creek fire in southeastern Montana has consumed more than 200,000 acres and has cost $1.5 million to man with an estimated 600 firefighters as of Monday. Nationally more than 900,000 acres have burned.
The Division of Fire has: dispatched two 20-person firefighting crews to Whitehall; an overhead crew and two engines in Colorado; two engines and a helicopter in Arizona; two overhead personnel in Montana, one overhead in Wyoming, and another overhead in Colorado.
Matt said people should exercise extreme caution with fireworks this Independence holiday week. Due to fire potential conditions many municipalities and areas have banned the ignition of fireworks. Check with local authorities to see if restrictions are in place.
People should: always carry an ax, bucket and shovel; build campfires in a designated fire enclosure and the fire should never be left unattended; should extinguished cigarettes and dispose them in an appropriate container; and, be aware of any fire restrictions in the area.
For more information, call Division of Fire at 676-2550.