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Preparing for fire season in Montana

Posted at 2:51 PM, Jun 12, 2024

With fire season rapidly approaching, it's important to be prepared whether you live in a city or in a rural area.

“In wildland we have a saying ‘if you own the fuel, you own the fire,’ so what we want you to do right now, I mean right now, is starting with mitigating the fuels around your house. Getting those piles of firewood from against the house, clean up underneath your decks, keep your grass cut short, or trim back, and keep it watered, if you can. That’s buying us time to help you guys out,” said Ken Hanks, assistant fire chief for Vaughn Fire.

North-central Montana saw a few showers in May, which allowed for a decent amount of precipitation, but with June being drier, the grass around central Montana is beginning to dry out.

Lead meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Great Falls, Jim Brusda, said Great Falls is currently listed as abnormally dry for this time of year.

There are several things we can do to help prevent fires including practicing safe outdoor cooking, following city and county burn ordinances, and having safe backyard campfires at least 15 feet away from homes.

“Going into summer, we have had a kind of a relatively wet spring, which means a lot of the fuels, lightweight fuels, meaning grasses, shrubs and those types of things in town and surrounding town; they grew very well, now they're drying out at a rapid pace, so they're going to be fire ready. One hot day is all it takes and everything’s ready to burn,” said Bob Shupe, assistant fire chief for Great Falls Fire Rescue.

The grass around central Montana is drying out and with dryer, warmer, and windier conditions, fires are more likely as we go into July.

“To prevent a big wildfire season, we need rainfall over the next few weeks. We do have a weather system coming in next week that has potential to give us some rain, but we need a good half of an inch to even up to an inch and a half of rain to make a difference, to have a good impact on our fire season that's been coming up,” Brusda added.

Click here for more information on current drought conditions.