KALISPELL – Fire crews aren’t just worried about protecting homes and property across Montana. The spread of invasive aquatic mussels also weighs heavy on their minds because the mussels can latch onto firefighting equipment from other areas of the country and hitch a ride to the Treasure State.

Aquatic Invasive Mussels reached Montana last year, and while scientists and biologists are doing everything they can to prevent and further detect if they are here, Interagency Fire managers are keeping vigilant on protecting Montana’s waterways.

“With the testing positive last year of mussels in eastern Montana the fire community as a whole took an aggressive approach on it and came up with plans on how to limit any spread,” said Flathead County Fire Services Area Manager Lincoln Chute.

The mussels have the potential to adhere to the surface of tanks, pumps and hoses on firefighting equipment moving from wildfires across the country and can be transmitted if the equipment is not decontaminated.

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“We’re decontaminating the buckets we use on helicopters with hot water that kills them, the same with the scooper planes,” Chute said. “We’re putting procedures in place for water-handling equipment, fire trucks, water tenders.”

Before moving to a new water source the equipment is power washed with 140-degree water for at least two minutes with a hot pressure washer.

“So that we do everything we possibly can to not transport any of those to western Montana,” Chute said.

Montana, Fish, Wildlife and Parks reports that more than 330 samples have been taken across the state to check for aquatic invasive mussels and analysis is ongoing. But so far no positive samples for invasive mussels have been detected this year.

MTN’s Nicole Miller