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Missoula’s record heat sets in; fire agencies tracking conditions ahead of Fourth

As a heat wave cooked Missoula on Monday and Tuesday and is expected to last all week, water-seekers take to cooler conditions for relief. (Mark Graves/AP via CN)

Tuesday’s record high for the day of 101 degrees in Missoula was threatened again on Wednesday with a forecast of 103 degrees – part of the record heat that has turned the dial to broil across the Pacific Northwest.

The heat has sent many Missoulians in search of cool rivers and lakes while Missoula County plans to cancel its mobile Covid 19 vaccination clinic until the heatwave passes.

The City of Missoula’s fireworks ban also remains in effect, though Missoula County on Wednesday said it lacks the same self-governing powers to enact a similar ban. Instead, it’s urging common sense and caution as the fire danger moves to high and beyond.

“For now, the county commissioners and emergency officials remind residents that anyone responsible for starting a fire is also responsible for the cost of putting it out, which can total in the millions of dollars,” the county said in a statement. “They trust that the public will use extreme caution before deciding to light off fireworks in areas where it is legal.”

The county said a number of conditions must be met before enacting a fireworks ban. Among them, a coalition of fire and emergency agencies representing western Montana must determine that fire restrictions have been met.

The county said it would act in accordance with those recommendations.

This week, the Northern Rockies Coordination Group and partnering federal, state and local agencies launched a new Montana Fire Information portal to track those current fire restrictions.

“Every Montanan is impacted by longer, more severe wildfire seasons,” said Amanda Kaster, director of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. “Because we’re all impacted by wildfire, we are all also responsible for proactively preparing and equipping our communities to reduce wildfire risk and mitigate its potential impacts.”

The new website includes a geospatial map that depicts the specific fire restrictions for each jurisdiction across Montana.

Stage 1 and Stage 2 fire restrictions are designed to limit human-caused activities that commonly start wildfires. That includes campfires, smoking and other activities that generate sparks. Still, the state notes, human carelessness is always a threat.

Missoula County is using the site to consider new restrictions as they become necessary.

“Missoula County has recently entered high fire danger, as opposed to other areas of the state, which are already experiencing very high to extreme fire danger,” the county said. “A multi-agency coalition of fire and emergency management officials, who represent a swath of western Montana, determines when the threshold to impose fire restrictions has been met, and Missoula County will act accordingly based on their recommendations.”