Missoula County In Extreme Fire Danger, 60 Human Caused Fires - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Missoula County In Extreme Fire Danger, 60 Human Caused Fires

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MISSOULA -

Missoula County is now at its highest fire danger level, entering "extreme" fire danger on Monday.

County fire officials said 60 of 70 fires in the Lolo National Forest this season were human caused. They said with more than 30 of those fires in just the last week, this fire season is on pace to be one of the worst in recent memory.

"We went into stage one a full month ahead, we went to extreme a full month ahead this year than last year, and for those people who remember 2007, the Black Cat Fire and Jocko Fire, we're right on pace with 2007," said Chris Johnson of the Missoula County Fire Protection Association.

Johnson said there were 13 human-caused fires in the U.S. Forest Services' boundaries alone last week.

"Most of them were escaped camp fires, or camp fires people just left, they're abandoned and still hot," Johnson said.

He said firefighter resources are not yet stretched thin, but once the rest of Montana enters "extreme" fire danger it may be difficult to get resources from out of the state.

"There's going to be real competition for resources, certainly through August and into September," Johnson said.

He said he hopes the fire danger signs around town get people to realize how extreme this season is.

"It's that much more dangerous, and as you can see on that sign, we can't go any further, we'd have to build more pies," Johnson said.

In an effort to help, fire officials are issuing Stage 1 restrictions a week sooner than last year.

"They just need to be that much more aware of what they're going to do, and how they can mitigate the start of a fire from what they're doing," Johnson said.

Under the Stage 1 restrictions, starting 12 AM Thursday, you can only light camp fires and smoke in certain areas. Fire officials are releasing the exact locations the Stage 1 restrictions apply to later this week. For more information what you can and can't do under the restrictions, visit www.firerestrictions.us for the most up-to-date information.

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