Aug 22, 2012 11:15 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
This year's fire season got off to a roaring start, and now half way through, Gov. Brian Schweitzer and his administration are continuing to track the conditions.
"This season started early and it doesn't have any signs of letting up," said Bob Harrington, a forester with the Montana Department of Natural Resources.
The latest data show more than 1,300 fires have burned nearly 742,000 acres in Montana.
However, of those fires, less than 70 have grown to more than 100 acres, a testament to the hard work of initial attack fire crews, Harrington said.
"We know there are a lot of landowners, volunteer firefighters, agency firefighters, contractors the managers who are getting kind of tired," he said. "For the most part I think we are in good shape from the human element, but we know that we have one to two months left of pretty active fire season.
So far, the state of has spent more than $23 million fighting fires this year, a figure expected to grow as meteorologists predict Montana could see another 250,000 acres burned by the time this season ends.
Bryan Henry, a Northern Rockies Coordination Center Predictive Services meteorologist, said, "Of course, we have to keep in mind that all that beetle kill forest is out there and one badly placed lightning strike could create additional problems for us."
The governor says the state is prepared, and the public should be, too.
"To some extent this is in the hands of God over the course of the next 48 days," Schweitzer said. "So, I'd say do all the things that you can do to protect your property. Don't start any fires, for God's sake, and it wouldn't hurt to say a prayer."
The Northern Rockies Coordination Center reports about 680 of the fires in Montana have been human caused.