Southwest MT a hotspot for fire, according to U.S. Forest Service

2013-07-10T00:00:00Z Southwest MT a hotspot for fire, according to U.S. Forest ServiceBy Francis Davis of The Montana Standard Montana Standard

As Montana fire officials gaze down the barrel of another long fire season, they’ve concluded that southwest Montana is among the most vulnerable areas in the state.

With that in mind, the U.S. Forest Service upgraded the fire danger level from moderate to high on Tuesday for the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.

John Grassy, a public information officer with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation in Helena, said that at a recent statewide fire meeting, the DNRC designated southwest Montana as a hotspot for potential fire activity.

“What we’re seeing is the area of the state that hasn’t benefitted from the rains in May and the early part of June is the southwest part of the state,” Grassy said. “For the rest of the state the danger is low to moderate.”

Zach Uttech, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Great Falls, said the precipitation in southwest Montana was indeed about 30 to 40 percent below average for the last month. He also said forecast for the area is trending toward higher temperatures with little precipitation.

“Overall, (the weather pattern) doesn’t look great to mitigate the fire danger over the next couple of weeks,” Uttech said.

Uttech said there are chances for isolated thunderstorms in the area over the weekend and later next week, but those storms, while bringing some moisture, might also bring the danger of lightning.

The weather service listed the current fire danger for most of southwest Montana as moderate, but the Forest Service thought it was prudent to raise the level to high for the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest because the vegetation is becoming dry.

Forest Service spokesperson Leona Rodreick in Dillon said lightning strikes caused a couple of single tree fires in the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness west of Philipsburg in the last few days. Single-engine responders quashed those blazes before they got larger than a tenth of an acre, according to Roderick.

“Things are starting to dry out,” she said. “The lower elevations will dry out quicker than the higher elevations. And a lot depends on the vegetation and weather patterns in the area.”

Grassy said as summer progresses thunderstorms will bring less precipitation and more lightning, which will raise the chances of fire.

However, Grassy also said about half of all fires are caused by human activity.

“It’s important that people are aware of any fire restrictions that may be in effect and be careful with campfires and doing things like driving vehicles through tall grass,” he said.

Though difficult to predict, Rodreick didn’t anticipate the Forest Service upgrading the fire danger for the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in the near future.

Currently, no fire restrictions are in place in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.

Still, the Forest Service stands ready.

“As a person who has been working in fire information for a number of seasons, every day is a new day,” she said. “(Whatever happens) we’ll work though it.”

Copyright 2016 Montana Standard. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Civil Dialogue

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name-calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome. Moderators will monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum. Our comment policy explains the rules of the road for registered commenters. If you receive an error after submitting a comment, please contact us at editor@mtstandard.com.

If your comment was removed or isn't appearing online, perhaps:

  1. You called someone an idiot, a racist, a dope, a moron, etc. Please, no name-calling or profanity (or veiled profanity -- #$%^&*).
  2. You rambled, failed to stay on topic or exhibited troll-like behavior intended to hijack the discussion at hand.
  3. YOU SHOUTED YOUR COMMENT IN ALL CAPS. This is hard to read and annoys readers.
  4. You have issues with a business. Have a bad meal? Feel you were overcharged at the store? New car is a lemon? Contact the business directly with your customer service concerns.
  5. You included an e-mail address or phone number, pretended to be someone you aren't or offered a comment that makes no sense.
  6. You accused someone of a crime or assigned guilt or punishment to someone suspected of a crime.
  7. Your comment is in really poor taste.

NOTE: Our comment policy has recently changed. Real names will now display next to comments you post. If you are a current user, you can update your profile to include your real name by logging into the site here.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Montana Standard News Topics