The Missoula County Fire Protection Association has raised the fire danger level from ‘Moderate’ to ‘High’, as of noon on Monday, July 16.

Fire Prevention Specialist with the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Jordan Koppen made the announcement.

“We’re starting to see a lot of consecutive hot dry, days and with no moisture relief in sight at this time and with vegetation and grasses drying out, we’re getting into that wildfire season,” said Koppen. “Starting at noon today, we’re going to be switching all the signs to the ‘High’ fire danger level.”

Koppen reminds residents of last year’s disastrous fire season, when temperatures in June reached 100 degrees drying out fine fuels which were ignited by July thunderstorms.

“Any ignition sources that are used could turn into a wildfire if we’re not careful,” he said. “All the dry grasses, the woody fuels means there are more chances for a wildfire to start. We’re talking campfires. People need to put out all their campfires. Also, lately, we’ve had people continue to do open burning, even though the open burning season ended on the 4th last week. When people are traveling, make sure you’re not dragging any chains that may spark a fire. Stop tossing your cigarette butts out of car windows, it’s time to transition into wildfire season.”

Koppen said it’s never too late to start preparing your property for wildfire season.

“Start cleaning those gutters out, make sure there’s no fuel beds around your home like wood piles, get those about 30 to 50 feet away from your home,” he said. “I know that can be inconvenient, but one ember landing in your ember trap could easily burn down your home.”

Koppen said, just like last season, firefighters will be busy enough dealing with lightning-caused fires.

“We have to spend a lot of our time worrying about that, and they don’t need to worry about human caused fires, so that’s what we’re trying to prevent,” he said.

In 2017 over one million acres of forestland were destroyed by wildfires, and several were lightning caused.