Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
A shortage of rain in the last month-and-a-half has led to dry conditions, prompting local county commissioners to impose fire restrictions. The state drought committee has listed most of the state including most of north-central Montana in dry conditions just below a drought warning, with the northeastern corner listed as in drought. At a conference call on fire restrictions this week, Hill, Blaine, Fergus and Petroleum counties decided to impose Stage 1 fire restrictions in the counties, which limits open fires to established camp sites only and restricts vehicle travel to existing roads. “It’s not going to hurt the recreational campfires out there ,” said Hill County Disaster and Emergency Services coordinator Ron Knudson “The big thing is getting the word out to the public.” Knudson said that people have been using common sense and he is not aware of any problems with campfires this season, but with increasingly dry conditions the county wants to make sure people are aware of the danger. A listing of restrictions and approved campsites is included on page A2 of today’s Havre Daily News. Last week saw six fires in Hill County, most started by lightning strikes but at least one apparently caused by equipment in a field. The largest, in northern Hill County, burned about 500 acres after lightning struck in extremely dry Conservation Reserve Program land. The damage included some cropland but burned mostly on pasture and CRP, destroying vegetation and fencing. Fires also burned in the Bears Paw Mountains and in western Hill County. During the conference call, representatives of Fergus County said that county saw 13 fires, three machine-caused and nine from lightning with the cause of one unknown. Blaine County Saw eight lightning-caused fires and Chouteau County, which representatives said still looks fairly green, saw six fires. While fall rains could bring the total precipitation back, helping with fire danger and helping farmers who want to plant fall crops like winter wheat, the north-central Montana region has been falling further and further behind normal in the last two months. After extremely dry conditions for most of the fall and winter, a deluge of rain fell in May and early June, bringing the Havre region and most of the state back above the average for the year and for the water year, which runs from October 1 to the end of September. Less rain in the end of June and since has brought much of the state back to dry conditions, with the latest Montana Drought Status map showing most of the state in dry to severely dry conditions. Only nine counties Phillips, Valley, Petroleum and Garfield in the northeast, and Gallatin, Park, Big Horn, Powder River and Carter on the southern edge are listed as in no drought. Beaverhead County in the southwestern corner of Montana and McCone, Prairie and Custer counties are listed as in a moderately dry condition, which is a drought alert, while Sheridan, Roosevelt, Richland, Dawson and Wibaux counties on the eastern border are listed as in drought with a severely dry status. The rest of the state including Hill, Blaine, Liberty and Chouteau counties are listed as slightly dry. The status maps tell the tale of precipitation in the state. In April and May, much of north-central Montana including Hill, Blaine and Chouteau counties were listed in drought with a severely dry status, with most surrounding counties listed as in a moderately dry status On May 1, Havre was 1.28 inches below normal for the year, and 2. 33 inches below normal for the water year, where the accumulation of moisture for the year is recorded. By June 11, heavy steady rains had brought much of the state back to above normal, with Havre listed as 1.32 inches above normal for the year and .27 inches above normal for the water year. While that rain put construction on 1st Street in Havre behind the construction crews made up for lost time and that project is nearly complete it did help revive local crops. While showers have fallen since then, helping some farmers with crop yields but recent showers also setting back harvesting of crops for others the rain has not been enough to keep up with normal. The National Weather Service lists Havre as receiving 1.17 inches of rain for July, more than a third-of-an-inch short of the normal 1. 51 inches, and through today Havre has received .11 inches with the normal .56 inches, .21 inches short of the 8.21 inches normal for the year.