August 12, 1999
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana
Despite scattered rain in recent days, fire danger in the Seeley-Clearwater area remains very high.
Colin Moon, fire supervisor at the Clearwater State Forest headquarters, says his initial-attack crews have responded to 37 fires since August 1, and all of those were lightning-caused.
With such a busy season, Moon commends the local public for being careful with fire, and for heeding special restrictions in effect since August 5, 1999.
Under Montana law, the citizenry is responsible for preventing forest fires, by understanding and practicing restrictions invoked by the State Forester and other fire authorities.
Presently, "Special Fire Restrictions (Level 2) are in place for all state, private, and national forest areas of western Montana. The restrictions are summarized as follows:
No campfires (except at designated, improved campgrounds (see list in box) or, as a barbecue in a noncombustible container.
No smoking (except at an improved homesite, in a vehicle, or in an area clear of vegetation, wood, and all other flammable material.
In addition, local fire authorities have suspended all burning permits previously issued, making all open burning illegal until the suspension is lifted.
Also at Level 2, loggers and others operating power tools and equipment in the woods are asked to use voluntary "hoot owl" restrictions that include:
· immediately stopping all burning and extinguishing any fires
· ceasing operations by 1 p.m. each day
· patrolling work areas for two hours after the end of daily operations where logging or other ground-based equipment operations are occurring in the woods
If forest and weather conditions worsen, fire officials may consider more restrictive measures to protect forests, property, and human life. For example, at Level 3, logging restrictions become mandatory. Under the most extreme conditions, officials may even consider an actual closing of forest areas to all public and industrial uses.
Steve Wallace, manager of the Clearwater Unit, Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation, points out that forest fires are not only potentially destructive and dangerous, they can also be expensive (see related story). When the DNRC concludes that a fire is human-caused with intent and negligence (such as knowingly ignoring a special restriction, the department may charge the responsible private party for the costs of the fire.
Anyone who has questions about forest fire prevention and special restrictions should call the DNRC(Clearwater State Forest((406) 244-5857; the U.S. Forest Service(Seeley Lake Ranger Station((406) 677-2233; or, the Seeley Lake Rural Fire District((406) 677-2400.
To report any open burning and all wildfires call 9-1-1.