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Missoula County adopts Stage 2 fire restrictions as conditions worsen

Citing critical fire conditions, Missoula County on Thursday implemented Stage 2 fire restrictions, a move that bans all campfires and forbids a number of other activities.

That includes mowing lawns after 1 p.m., operating vehicles off designated roads, and smoking in most outdoor locations. The restrictions are the county’s first this fire season and they come one day after the state declared a Montana-wide fire emergency.

The Stage 2 fire restrictions take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday morning. Those who violate the restrictions and start a fire could be charged for the cost of the emergency response.

“Amid our current situation with fire conditions and the draw-down of resources, we can ill-afford any new fires on the landscape right now,” said Adrian Beck, director of emergency service. “This is consistent with our surrounding counties that are all part of the Missoula Area Restrictions Plan.”

The restrictions include all city and county property, state land, private property and the Lolo Natioal Forest. Outdoor yard work utilizing an internal combustible engine must take place before 1 p.m.

“That’s typically when we get into our driest conditions during the day,” said Beck. “It’s when any recovery of humidity that occurred overnight has dried up. That’s our burn period.”

Thursday’s order to place restrictions came in anticipation of a Red Flag warning later in the day, with high winds and potential thunderstorms in the forecast.

That’s a concern for fire managers on both the Granite Pass Complex southwest of Missoula. With the fire’s slow encroachment into the Highway 12 corridor, private property protection has become a concern.

A Type II Incident Management Team has been ordered, Beck said.

“We’re keeping a close eye on those fires,” she said. “We’ll be working with the (incident team) to ensure our concerns over private property and utilization of local resources are forefront.”

Fire officials also are actively fighting the West Lolo complex west of Missoula. One fire in the complex of incidents is spotting into the upper Ninemile Valley, according to Beck. The area is home to private property and other resources.

“They’ve been making really good progress on that. Of all their fires, that’s their number one priority,” she said. “They’re putting a lot of resources on it so it’s not a long-term fire we’re dealing with for the remainder of the season.”