Jon Marshall, Assistant Fire Chief with Gore Hill Fire Department, says, "Montana has a pretty dynamic fire season depending how much rain we get in the spring". Weather conditions are vastly different across geographic regions with some areas experiencing flood conditions while others are experiencing drought.
Overall this fire season has been fairly mild. Marshall says, "not too much in the early season and now it's starting to pick up like right now we have some wildfires near Superior and Missoula out in that region".
Wind plays a huge factor in wildfires. Marshall says, "30mph wind can affect it, or 70mph wind especially when a thunderstorm rolls through and pushes that fire, it can get very unpredictable at times".
In addition to wind helping spread fires, wind can also strip the land of moisture making conditions even drier! Marshall explains, "a tiny spark is all it takes for to catch some dry grass on fire and that fire can take off due to wind conditions or the fuel moisture that's in the vegetation at the time".
It doesn't always take an active flame to start a grassfire. Marshall says, "it could be something as simple as a discarded cigarette or a lighting strike". Grassfires can also be sparked from welding work or metal hitting rock like chains dragging on a highway.
If you see smoke or a fire, it's best to call 911 immediately. Although your first instinct may be to help, firefighters recommend safety first. Marshall says, "there's no real safe area to stand because fire is so ever-changing and we don't want you to put your life at risk just spraying a garden hose, so we ask just to stay back, evacuate, get your family to safety and the fire department will get there as quickly as possible".
Firefighters say the best way to help is preventative measures like never leaving a campfire unattended and always keeping an extinguishing source nearby.