Missoula fire danger HIGH, experts share prevention tips


MISSOULA, Mont. - Temperatures remain higher than usual in western Montana and fire danger is climbing.

Our First Alert Weather Team says we're expecting very little precipitation over the next week, so fire officials in Missoula County have decided to raise the fire danger level from ‘moderate' to 'high.'

NBC Montana decided to do a little digging to find out what folks can do to help prevent fires.

We may not be in a record-breaking heat wave anymore but it doesn't mean wildfires won't spark up as grasses and forests continue to dry out.

Fire experts tell us everyone needs to do their part to prevent fires.

Fire Prevention Coordinator Cindy Super, with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, tells NBC Montana despite receiving some rainfall around western Montana, fire danger is still high.

Super says with temperatures reaching into the 90s, fine fuels like grasses and small branches can dry out in a matter of hours.

That's why Super tells us even if it rains in the morning the weather could still be sweltering and windy by the afternoon -- and conditions like those are every firefighter's nightmare.

"If you light a pile at 9 o'clock in the morning and you walk away from it by 4, 5, 6 o'clock in the evening and then you get a wind it's going to start to blow embers into the grass," said Super.  "The grass, if it was already cured out, is dry again."

Missoula fire officials ask the public to help prevent fires by doing the following: If you burned this spring, go check on your piles to make sure they are fully extinguished. If you have a campfire make sure it is completely out and cold to the touch before you leave.

"Make sure your burn pile is dead out.  A lot of times that means getting in there with a shovel, and if it's a big pile it's going to take you a bit of time," said Super.  "It's better to be safe and to put it out when it's small, than have to have us come out and put it out later or before you burn a field or catch your neighbor's house on fire." 

Super tells us hot cars and dry grass do not mesh well, so people need to be careful to avoid driving any type of vehicle on dry grass.

She also wants to remind Missoula County residents that open burning is now closed for the season.

For more information about fire prevention and safety click here. To review fire restrictions around the country and here in Montana click here.

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