Officials with the Missoula County Fire Protection Association have raised the fire danger from ‘Moderate’ to ‘High’.

KGVO News spoke to Max Rebholz, Wildfire Preparedness Coordinator with the Missoula County Office of Emergency Management on Monday for details on what triggered the increase in fire danger.

“Our fire danger rose to ‘High today’,” said Rebholz. “Fire protection agencies in Missoula County assess that our vegetation is drying out, and we have reached a level that involves moving the fire danger up to high. It's our grasses, those that are considered the ‘flashy fuels’. Those are now starting to dry out and cure and there’s an increasing likelihood of a fire start, and the fire growing quickly to become more of a complex and larger wildfire.”

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Rebholz provided more of the science behind the decision to increase the fire danger.

“We look at the energy release component (the ERC) essentially or something or the burn how much energy would be released from that burning material. There are different energy release components throughout the county, like the east side of the county is different from the west side, but they're all around like 39 to 40. So, to go from moderate to high, you change the ERC of 39 which is moderate to high, to 40, which is considered to be a high fire danger.”

Rebholz explained the increased restrictions as fire danger transitions from ‘moderate’ to ‘high’.

“In Missoula County, outdoor general open burning is closed,” he said. “So is any burning of vegetation debris; that's also closed in terms of restrictions. Campfires need to be within designated areas, and inside a fire ring. We haven't moved into either stage one or stage two fire restrictions at this time. If and when we do, there'll be a separate press release. For folks who want to stay up to date on current fire restrictions they can visit Montana Fire”

Rebholz said there are lots of common sense ways to keep from starting a wildfire while recreating in western Montana.

“Stay vigilant being careful with equipment and controlling sparks from vehicles, dragging trailer chains and stuff like that,” he said. “Making sure campfires are drowned with water and stirring till they are cool to touch before people leave it. Don’t park in tall grass, and make sure the trailer chains are not dragging on the ground. General fire preventative measures like that go a long way towards easing our fire season in western Montana.”

Click here for more information on fire restrictions across Montana.

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