Western Montana Seeing Shocking Uptick in Human Caused Fires, 35 in a Week
There's been an uptick in the number of human caused wildfires this past week that threatens to force Western Montana into Stage 1 or 2 fire restrictions, even though conditions this year aren't as bad as many past years.
"We've had quite an issue with human caused fires lately," said DNRC Public Information Officer Jordan Koppen. "That number has risen to 35 human starts and that ranges from the Bitterroot up to Libby, and that's quite a bit... just in the past week."
In recent days an abandoned campfire near Elbow Lake Near Seeley escaped causing about an acre of destruction (see photo above). Then on Monday the Dry Gulch Fire near Frenchtown erupted and is expected to be human caused as there was no lightning in the area.
"It's just pretty crazy, and we're trying to get the public to realize that if we can be more careful with ignition sources out there we can stay out of stage 1 and 2 restrictions and our wildland firefighters can focus on lightning ignitions because we are most likely going to get a few more lightning ignitions in the coming days," Koppen said.
Koppen says the problem isn't just campfires, and that some people are still trying to do debris burning even though debris burning has been closed since the 4th of July. On top of the 35 human caused fires, Koppen says there have been nearly as many lightning caused fires this past week, mostly in the high mountains.