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

Late season fires hinder work on prescribed burns

West Fork firefighter serving as a lookout for Hotshot crews working below on the Nelson Creek fire.
File photo: A firefighter serving as a lookout for crews working below.

For the second time in as many months, a Montana national forest is warning of elevated fire danger. Human-caused fires this week in the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest are diverting firefighting resources usually reserved for fire prevention work this time of year.

Firefighters on Sunday responded to a campfire that wasn’t properly extinguished near Meagher County’s Charcoal Gulch area. National Forest officials say that was just one of the six recent starts in the region.

Forest spokesperson Chiara Cipriano says conditions are exceptionally dry, even in the high elevations.

Cipriano says every time firefighters are forced to respond to escaped campfires or warming fires, that hinders other important fire prevention work, like prescribed burns.

"We're losing a lot of our fire resources to responding to these wildfire events when we could be putting fire on the land in an appropriate location," she says.

Fire danger is currently rated ‘moderate’ on the forest and Stage 1 fire restrictions will be lifted by midnight Wednesday.

The U.S. Forest Service asks people to follow local fire restrictions and to carry – and use - proper tools to completely extinguish a campfire until it’s cool to the touch.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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