Aided by a state helicopter, the Missoula Fire Department held a fast-moving grass fire to 18 acres on Tuesday while as many as 22 new wildfires started within Missoula County over the past weekend, with 14 of them human caused.
With persistent heat and a worsening drought, fire protection agencies around Missoula County have raised the fire danger in the region to ‘very high,’ a condition that caters to easy fire starts that can quickly intensify.
Kristen Mortenson with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation said Missoula County has experienced a total of 67 wildfires this year. Twenty-two of them occurred over the Independence Day weekend, and most of those were human caused.
On Tuesday, the latest fire spread rapidly across Waterworks Hill near downtown Missoula in the afternoon heat and breeze. The city fire department responded with six engines and water tender.
The U.S. Forest Service and DNRC also dispatched equipment, including a helicopter that conducted bucket drops.
“Upon arrival, the fire had grown to approximately 3 acres due to gusty wind conditions,” said Battalion Fire Chief Troy Ault. “Sudden wind shifts were a major factor in tactics along with very dry, fast fuels.”
Despite the conditions and risk of fire, Missoula County has not yet implemented any fire restrictions. Outdoor burning by permit remains closed, however.