Fire officials encourage everyone to be fire smart this Labor Day weekend 

RONAN — With continued hot and dry conditions, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Division of Fire Managers remind outdoor recreationists on the Flathead Indian Reservation to be careful not to let a wildfire spoil Labor Day weekend fun. Large wildfires continue to burn in the region and firefighting resources are at a premium.

On Sunday, August 30 an unattended campfire may haves started a 43 acre Finley Fire eight miles south of Arlee. Resources used to tame the fire included 20 Division of Fire Personnel, 10 Smokejumpers, two Helicopters and four Single Engine Air Tankers.

Despite inclement weather that aided in dowsing the Finley Fire and dropping snow on the mountain tops, summer is still officially here, and the weather can turn cool to hot in a matter of days. The Flathead Reservation is currently in Very High fire danger.

“Fire season is far from over and we want the public to enjoy and celebrate Labor Day Weekend carefully,” say Fire Management Officer, Ron Swaney. “We are counting on everyone to do their part and be safe when in the outdoors”.

Extinguishing a campfire after spending time enjoying the forest is camping 101. A campfire that is not completely extinguished can reignite, as it seems to be the case with the Finley Fire. DOF is investigating the cause.

Everyone is encouraged to do their part to prevent human-caused fires. Start by following these simple reminders.

  • Know Before You Go: Campfires are allowed at this time. Whether it be a small family gathering at home or a trip to the forest, be familiar with local rules and regulations.
  • Make sure your campfires are always attended and put out completely before calling it a night and before leaving the campsite.
  • Keep smoking confined to approved areas and never toss any burning material from vehicles. 
  • Make sure your mode of transportation is in good working condition (exhaust systems, catalytic converters, coolant levels, etc) and never idle over dry grass or drive off road through dry vegetation. If towing a trailer, make sure chains are tight and kept from dragging on the ground to prevent throwing sparks.

Target shooting should be done in safe areas with targets placed on dirt or gravel away from grass, rotten stumps and other flammable material. The use of exploding targets and tracer ammunition, known for starting fires, is illegal in most areas.

Several forest and grass fires started across the Flathead Reservation over the summer, most notably the Magpie Fire west of Dixon. 

The DOF has counted suspicious starts in the past several weeks and asks the public to be on the lookout for these suspected arsonist and any other suspicious acts on public lands. If you witness any suspicious acts, notify the proper authorities. Unattended campfires and other small starts from carelessness are a problem and may easily spread and spark much larger fires that could damage natural resources and cause extensive and expensive damage to buildings and structures. 

If a small fire becomes a full-blown forest fire, it could lead to arson charges, fines and even the bill for all fire-caused costs, even in accidental starts. 

Please do your part to ensure there is One Less Spark as a result of your outdoor activities in the heat of the afternoon: 

  • Mowing tall grass where the blade can strike a rock
  • Safety chains sparking on the road while towing a trailer
  • Failure to have a spark arrester in your equipment’s exhaust system in grassy areas

Tremendous effort goes into preventive programs and information campaigns. Division of Fire officials continually fine tune their surveillance methods with cameras, patrols, and random reports provided by the general public. With the support of the sheriff’s department, police force, and all law officials on the reservation, efforts are being made to stop human-caused fires during this present time of High fire danger.

If you witness anyone setting fires or abandoning campfires, please contact your local police or call 1-800-47-ARSON. It’s an anonymous call and your identity will remain confidential. You may also go online to Rewards go up to $10,000. Let’s work together to keep our wildland areas safe and protected.

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