Fire danger in Northwest Montana continues to be extreme. Hot, dry, windy conditions are expected, so wildfire prevention must be the top priority for all early season hunters in Montana.
The Northwest Montana Zone of Fire Management Agencies is asking Montana hunters to help prevent additional fires during this extreme fire season. Upland bird season opens September 1 and archery season opens September 2. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation; the National Forests of Northwest Montana; and northwest Montana counties are joining together to urge hunters to exercise extreme caution and to be aware of area closures.
Days are getting shorter, nights are getting cooler, and typically fire season is waning when fall hunts begin. But weather patterns in Northwest Montana are showing no relief from extreme fire danger, and being fire conscious should be a top priority for all hunters heading out to the field.
When the fire danger is rated “extreme”, fires of all types start quickly and burn intensely. Forest fuel conditions remain extremely dry and any ignition has the potential to spread quickly. Small fires become large fires much faster than at the “very high” fire danger rating. Spot fires are probable, with long-distance spotting likely. These fires are very difficult to fight and may become very dangerous, often lasting for several days.
Stage II fire restrictions remain in effect for most of Western Montana and the following acts are prohibited:
•Building, maintaining, attending, or using a campfire in any setting.
•Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or
while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.
•Woods operations are under “Hoot Owl”. This means woods operations including felling, bucking, and skidding of trees, firewood cutting, machine-piling brush, road building, blasting, and welding after 1:00 pm, and there must be a patrol for a minimum of 1 hour after these operations cease. “Hoot Owl” procedures are intended to minimize the potential for a fire start from the use of internal combustion engines.
•Operating motorized vehicles off designated roads and trails.
Hunters and recreational users are urged to be prepared: carry a shovel, bucket, axe, and garden-type weed sprayer full of water in all vehicles; drive only on established roads; take care to ensure that catalytic converters and mufflers are in good repair; and do not stop or park vehicles over grass or brush.
Some areas near active fires are currently closed to access until the fire danger subsides. Hunters should let family members know where they are going, so if a fire starts nearby, a safety net is in place who can let authorities know they are in the area. Do not park in front of a gate, firefighters may need access to that road to respond to a wildland fire.
For more information regarding wildland fire safety, campfires, and fire restrictions on Montana’s forested lands in Northwest Montana, please contact your local DNRC, Forest Service, or FWP office, or visit https://www.facebook.com/FlatheadOES for the daily interagency fire fact sheet.