SEELEY LAKE – Bears sightings are becoming common in the Seeley Lake area, where garbage cans were left out after homes were evacuated. The garbage has drawn bears closer to residential areas, according to Mike Cole, Rice Ridge Fire information officer.

A bear specialist arrived at the Rice Ridge Fire camp on Friday, because firefighters are also encountering bears on the fire lines, he said.

There have been numerous reports of bear activity near the fire lines, especially near the Monture Guard Station Cabin and fire lines near Ovando.

A Be Bear Aware’ bear information trailer is now at the Rice Ridge Fire camp for firefighters to get more information. A Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear specialist is providing information about what to do if someone encounters a bear, and how to avoid them, as well as how to use a canister of bear spray.

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Cole said many of the firefighters from out of state have never come across bears before, especially not grizzlies.

Safety officers are adding bears to the list of things personnel needs to be prepared for at the Rice Ridge Fire, which also includes poor forest conditions.

“Just get a little more information to the firefighters. What to do to avoid them, what to do if they show up on the fire line. We will probably do a learn how to use bear spray, get bear spray to a few people on the fire line,” Cole said.

The fire camp is ordering bear spray, although not every firefighter will carry it, he said.

As of Monday morning, the Rice Ridge Fire has burned an estimated 135,355 acres, and nearly 900 personnel are assigned to fight the fire.

MTN’s Augusta McDonnell

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