The Missoula County Fire Protection Association has officially raised the fire danger level in western Montana to Moderate.

KGVO reached out to Kristin Mortenson, Community Preparedness and Fire Prevention Specialist with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, and the Public Information Officer with the Missoula Fire Protection Association, for details.

“I am part of an organization called the Missoula County Fire Protection Association, and we work locally here in Missoula County to make sure that all of our agencies are working together,” said Mortenson. “All the fire protection agencies are also members of this organization and it helps us to work together.”

Mortenson said looks can be deceiving when it comes to fire danger in western Montana.

“Well, even though there is a sea of green out there and it seems like we're very wet and moist still, there has been a lot of drying out going on, and there is not a lot of precipitation in the forecast,” she said. “And so this hotter, drier weather is creating drier fuels that are becoming more susceptible to ignition and fires spreading.”

Mortenson said there are specific triggers that will change the fire danger level.

“So when we hit certain triggers for fuel moisture, then that lets us know that fire danger has gone from moderate to high,” she said. “Fire danger really is an indicator of the potential for a fire in a certain area to ignite, spread and then require suppressive action.”

Mortenson said every visitor to parks, trails, and campgrounds in western Montana can make difference and help prevent human-caused fires.

“If each of us could do our part to just prevent any wildfires start, then that makes our job a lot easier,” she said. “Make sure that you know the fire restrictions that could be in place wherever you're going to play, visit and it will tell you the fire restrictions that are in place throughout Montana.”

Captain Toby Ballard with the Missoula Rural Fire District offered these tips.

“Open burning will be closed and that means general burning will be closed as of July 1, so there will be no more permitted burning,” said Ballard. “That way campfires and things are still allowed. Of course, we would ask people to be as careful as possible. Make sure your fire is out when you leave it. That's one of the biggest reasons that we get wildland fires is that people don't have it completely out.”

Ballard also offered helpful information on water safety this 4th of July weekend.

“You're seeing quite a few people fishing and not so much tubing, as the water is still very cold,” said Ballard. “So that's something to keep in mind even though it's warm out is that that water is cold and you can cool down really fast even on a hot day. You can get hypothermic and that will certainly cause problems. The rivers are still pretty high and can be dangerous, especially where you can't see all the strainers and things in the river. So if people are getting out on the river, I would still say be very cautious.”

Click here for complete fire information as the 4th of July weekend approaches.

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