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Wildfire, fire management and air quality news for western Montana and the Northern Rockies.

Wildfire Conditions In Northwest Montana Similar To Last Year

Firefighters building fire line.
Fire fighters building fire line.

The National Interagency Fire Center raised the national preparedness level up a notch today as wildfires across the southwest and lower Rockies require more firefighting resources.

Northwest Montana remains at the lowest preparedness level.

Fire managers in the Flathead say while June held steady at average fire danger, July and August could ramp up to above normal fire potential.

Lincoln Chute says northwest Montana is currently looking at similar conditions to this time last year.

"I think we're really close to last year, and we're about average. We might be a little wetter than last year at this time, but it's really close."

Chute is the Flathead County Fire Warden. He also remembers early July last year, when the Flathead went weeks and weeks without measurable moisture and paved the way for extreme fire danger and large burns later in the summer.

"The fire danger could increase rapidly. Right now we're about average, so we’ll have to see what the weather does," Chute says.

The National Interagency Fire Center pegs northwestern Montana’s fire potential above normal for July, August and September. Last year the Flathead saw 118 fire starts in August alone.

Flathead National Forest Fire Management Officer Rick Connell says wildland firefighting crews in the Flathead are fully staffed and currently deployed to Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Oregon, where they’re on call.

"Helping other folks that are already dried-out and having fires, and hopefully they'll reciprocate back to us when it's later in the summer and their seasons are maybe tailing off and they've got excess resources."

Debris burning ends this weekend in the Flathead. Campfires are still allowed inside rock rings and should be fully extinguished. Having or using fireworks on all National Forest system lands, or any national park or state land is prohibited, even on the Fourth of July.

Nicky is MTPR's Flathead-area reporter.
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