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Flathead fire official concerned about high number of human caused wildfires

Human Fire
Posted at 6:14 PM, Aug 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-05 20:14:26-04

KALISPELL — All of Western Montana is currently in Stage II Fire Restrictions prohibiting the use of campfires, open burning, and smoking in limited areas.

But Flathead County Fire Area Manager Lincoln Chute said some residents and tourists are breaking those rules -- which could lead to devastating consequences.

“We just can’t afford to have more fires; the resources are stretched really really thin,” Chute told MTN News. He also says Flathead firefighters have seen an uptick in human-caused fire starts over the last two weeks.

Human Fire
Flathead firefighters have seen an uptick in human caused fire starts the last two weeks.

“And we just really need the public’s help, we just can’t afford to have human-caused fires, we got our hands full trying to deal with what we have now and any new starts from lightening,” said Chute.

He said the little amount of rain Northwest Montana has experienced this last week is deceiving, doing close to nothing to help Montana’s current wildfires.

“We’re going to need a four-day continuous rain event, we don’t get that a lot in August, you know these little showers they temper it, but for a short time only,” said Chute.

Even though a record number of tourists are visiting Northwest Montana this summer, Chute said locals make up a large number of human-caused fire starts this season.

“A lot of the fires that we’ve been getting lately have been locals, they’ve been at private property, there have been a few leftover abandoned campfires left up in the woods also, you know we’re just trying to get the word out to everybody across the board." - Flathead County Fire Area Manager Lincoln Chute

Chute said people who start a wildfire will be held financially responsible for any structure damages and fire suppression costs.

“You know if you start a fire, you could be held not only for what is damaged but the cost of fighting it too. And those big helicopters and bombers are rather expensive,” added Chute.

Chute expects Stage II Fire Restrictions to remain in place in Northwest Montana well into September.