Officials get set for late fire season

The tall green grass of early summer has turned brown and is beginning to cure and it’s time for people to be thoughtful of things like campfires, cigarette butts and anything else that could spark a wildfire.

“The fuel load is pretty heavy everywhere,” said Chris Mumme, emergency management director for Madison County. “The grass is starting to dry out and it’s high.”

Fire danger around the county is still moderate, but with the warm and dry weather predicted for the next week, fire season could be on us quickly, he said.

“We’re on the watch as best we can now,” Mumme said.

Typically this time of year is the heart of fire season around southwest Montana, but the abnormally wet spring has pushed things back, he said.

“We’re getting into a time where we don’t get much rain,” Mumme said. “Our fire season could be shifted to late summer or early fall.”

The wet conditions of the spring and early summer are beginning to change and that could make things interesting as summer starts to wind down, said Joe Husar, fire chief for Harrison Rural Fire Department.

The moisture in the early summer stimulated intense growth in the fine fuels, like grasses and brush.

“We’ve been pretty wet and we’ve got a lot of fuels out there that are starting to dry out,” Husar said. “We start getting some hot dry weather, we’re going to be jumping all over the place.”

In the high country, conditions are still pretty wet, said Jay Frederick with the forest service at the Madison Ranger District.

“We’ve been getting some moisture from these thunderstorms rolling through,” Frederick said. “It doesn’t mean that things couldn’t turn on a dime and change pretty quickly.”

On the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, most of the forest fires have been in the northern part of the forest, said Leona Rodreick, information officer with the forest.

The forest doesn’t have any restrictions on campfires and the fire danger is moderate. However, people still need to be vigilant.

“With the way the conditions are going things are drying out and it’s always good to remind people to be more fire aware when they’re out recreating,” Rodreick said.

Being careful and using some commonsense can go a long way in preventing wildfires, Mumme said. When having a campfire, keep it in a fire ring and make sure it’s always attended or completely out. Also, be careful with cigarette butts and don’t toss them into the grass or out the car window.

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