City implements Stage II fire restrictions on open space, conservation lands

The city of Missoula will implement Stage II fire restrictions on its conservation lands and open space at noon on Thursday, citing the region’s worsening fire conditions.

If the conditions don’t change, Missoula Fire Chief Jason Diehl said, the city may consider closing certain areas. The fire danger is now rated as extreme.

“If conditions continue, we may consider closures of certain areas,” said Diehl.

Missoula County issued a state of emergency due to the fire danger on July 13. Gov. Steve Bullock followed on July 23 by declaring a statewide fire emergency. That enables the state to tap additional fire resources, including the Montana National Guard, if needed.

Diehl said further restrictions within the city could include the closure of open space, though he anticipates the city would go to hoot-owl restrictions before that, limiting use to the morning hours.

Under Stage II restrictions, smoking is prohibited except in an enclosed vehicle or building, or while stopped in a area clean of flammable materials. Other restrictions apply.

The area’s affected by the restrictions including Mount Jumbo and Mount Sentinel, the North Hills, the Kim Williams Trail, Greenough Park and the Tower Street conservation area.

Twenty-five fires are actively burning across the state, including nine on the Lolo National Forest surrounding Missoula. Temperatures are forecast to remain in the 90s all week, reaching 96 on Saturday and Sunday.

A 20 percent chance of thunderstorms are forecast for tonight and Thursday.