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

National fire preparedness level increases ahead of wildfire season

Lolo Peak Fire, August 10, 2017.
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Lolo Peak Fire, Aug. 10, 2017.

The growing national risk of wildfires prompted experts this week to ratchet up the alert system for firefighting resources.

It’s a subtle acknowledgment that Montana’s regular wildland fire season is just around the corner.

The nation’s fire preparedness increased Monday one notch to Level 2.

The National Interagency Fire Center’s Preparedness Levels range from the lowest, a 1, to the highest, at a 5. The higher the number, the stronger the demand for firefighting management teams and resources.

“If you look at last year, we went into PL2 on April 1, so we're a few days earlier than last year, but I mean, that's an indicator. Last year was a pretty busy year,” NIFC spokesperson Carrie Bilbao says.

Wildfire activity is picking up across the country’s southern tier, increasing competition for firefighting resources.

Bilbao encourages residents of drought-impacted western states, like Montana, to even now be careful with fire when recreating. She also advises people to prepare their homes and properties for wildfire risks.

The connection between humans and fire goes back millions of years. What started with campfires and cooking grew into a burning addiction that catalyzed the Industrial Revolution and now shapes nearly every aspect of our society. Now, our ongoing reliance on fire in its many forms is changing the climate with explosive consequences for wildfires — and much more.

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