Local fire departments monitoring conditions ahead of heat wave

Posted at 6:05 PM, Jul 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-19 19:22:24-04

HELENA – A hot and dry forecast has some local fire departments closely monitoring the fire conditions.

According to Bob Drake, the Fire Chief for the Tri-Lakes volunteer fire department in Lewis and Clark County, departments like his keep a close eye on something called the Energy Release Component, or ERC.

The ERC score tells firefighters how severe a potential fire might be, and also helps determine the best way to attack the flames.

Right now, conditions are better than they were at this time last year, as noted by green vegetation that can still be found around the area.

However, Drake warned those conditions can change very quickly, sometimes in a matter of days, or even hours. As a precaution, open burning was suspended in the Lincoln and Augusta areas earlier this week.

Drake said the ERC is used to decide whether or not to allow burning. Once the score reaches a certain level, the county Sheriff is advised to close open burning.

While burning is allowed in some parts of Lewis and Clark County at the moment, Drake advised residents to use their best judgement on whether or not to burn. Lewis and Clark County’s diverse terrain, he said, makes it difficult to give a broad recommendation whether or not to burn.

“If you light, it you own it,” Drake said. “So if you light a debris burn and walk away from it and it gets away, then the houses it burns – the timber it burns, whatever it burns is your responsibility. Don’t take that lightly.”

Tri-Lakes Fire said it did respond to a couple fire calls related to Fourth of July fireworks this week, but fortunately, those fires were quickly brought under control.

A meeting of the Rural Fire Council is also scheduled for Monday, July 9th at the Lewis and Clark County Fire Hall in Unionville, at 7 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.