Missoula County postpones fire restrictions


By Martin Kidston

Missoula County held off on imposing Stage 1 fire restrictions on Tuesday, opting instead to take a wait-and-see approach based on the weather.

Adriane Beck, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management, said recent rain and cooler temperatures prompted fire officials to postpone stiffer restrictions.

Still, she said, that remains subject to change.

“In consultation with our partners in the Lolo National Forest, the tribes and surround counties, the decision was made to wait and see,” Beck said. “We’re trying to determine how much of an impact this precipitation is going to have.”

In a Tuesday morning meeting with Missoula County commissioners, Beck described the county as geographically unique. The county’s southern end typically sees fire conditions evolve sooner than those on the county’s northern end.

Beck said restrictions typically result from increased human-caused fires, severe fire conditions or limited resources. Ravalli County implemented Stage 1 restrictions on Monday.

“They acknowledged that their conditions weren’t necessarily appropriate for Stage 1 restrictions, but all their resources are exhausted from the Roaring Lion fire,” Beck said. “They don’t have the capacity to respond to as many fires as they would normally.”

Stage 1 restrictions would prohibit all campfires on private property and ban smoking in open spaces. Beck said fire officials don’t take restrictions on private property lightly.

“We’re always playing that game with restrictions, as far as implementing them when they’re appropriate to get the desired outcome,” said Beck. “Right now, the thought is they’re not appropriate given the conditions we have.”

Beck said fire officials will likely reevaluate the conditions in Missoula County on Wednesday.

“Given that we’re in late August and with a couple days of 90-degree temperatures and some wind, those conditions can change very quickly,” Beck said. “Hopefully, Mother Nature willing, we won’t get there this year.”

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com