Departments urge people to be responsible with warming fires


September 13, 2019

From Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation

MISSOULA — As days become shorter and temperatures drop, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and Bureau of Land Management encourage hunters and campers to be cautious with their warming or campfires. Despite the changing weather conditions, vegetation will dry back out this fall and a spark from a warming or campfire could ignite a destructive wildfire. 

“Over the years on walks through the forest, I have come across more than a few abandoned warming fires,” DNRC Director John Tubbs said. “At the time those fires were lit, conditions were wet and cool. But if those coals persist and conditions change, those warming fires have all the fuel they need to become wildfires.”  

Before leaving home, people should check to see if fire restrictions are in place for their destination and be informed about local weather conditions and avoid building a fire during periods of high winds.

When building a warming or campfire, people should clear away all leaves and other combustible material. They should not build a fire underneath overhanging branches, against a tree stump, or directly on vegetation. They should remember to store their firewood a safe distance upwind of the fire and always keep a bucket of water, dirt, and shovel nearby. Most importantly, they should never leave a fire unattended.

As people prepare to leave their campsite, they should make sure the fire is out and cold to the touch. They should drown the fire with water and make sure all embers, coals or sticks are wet. They should stir the remains with a shove. add more water and dirt and then stir again. The campers must be sure all burned material is extinguished and cooled, placing the back of their hand near the fire to feel for any heat. If it is still warm, they should continue adding water and dirt and stir again until everything is cool.

In 2019, 6 out of 10 wildfires in Montana were caused by humans. By being prepared and responsible while enjoying the outdoors this fall, everyone can all make a difference in reducing human-caused fires. Montana firefighters encourage people to remember, one less spark means one less wildfire.


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