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Flathead, Glacier move into Stage II fire restrictions

by Daily Inter Lake
| July 22, 2021 1:18 PM

More hot, dry and windy conditions, along with the Flathead National Forest's first large wildfire of the season, have prompted fire managers to impose Stage II fire restrictions starting next Monday in Northwest Montana.

The restrictions will be in effect across the Flathead National Forest, Glacier National Park, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks sites, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation's Kalispell, Stillwater and Swan units, and Flathead County.

Stage II restrictions also are in effect in Lincoln, Sanders, Lake and Mineral counties. They strictly prohibit all campfires. Smoking is not allowed eexcept within enclosed vehicles or buildings, at developed recreation sites, or while stopped in an area at least 3 feet in diameter that is cleared of debris. Operating motorized vehicles off designated roads and trails also is prohibited.

Other acts are prohibited between 1 p.m. and 1 a.m., including using explosives, welding and using a torch with an open flame. More information about the restrictions can be found at mtfireinfo.org.

Separate restrictions began Thursday on Stoltze Land & Lumber Co. lands. Fires, camping, smoking, fireworks, shooting and the use of internal combustion engines are prohibited, and motor vehicles are allowed only on open, public roads. Non-motorized use will be allowed until further notice.

The Stimson Timber Co. is not allowing any fires on its lands and camping is prohibited except in a designated area along the Fisher River. Motorized use is not allowed behind closed gates.

Fire officials warned that violating the restrictions and closures could result in jail time and fines of up to $10,000. Anyone who starts a fire can be held liable for all suppression costs and damages.

Each year, 70% to 80% of wildfires are human-caused and that trend has continued this summer, officials said.

Northwest Montana continues to experience drought conditions, including extremely dry forest fuels and weather forecasts of high temperatures accompanied by wind, low humidity and minimal precipitation. Fires continue to burn across Montana and the West where firefighting resources are in high demand.

Authorities are asking people not to park in tall, dry grass because heat from a vehicle's undercarriage and exhaust pipe can spark fires. Those hauling trailers should make sure they aren't dragging chains on the road, which also can create sparks.

Flathead County saw its first significant fire Wednesday evening in the North Fork.

The Hay Creek Fire was reported at about 6 p.m. and was listed at about 100 acres burning in timber about 3 to 5 miles west of Polebridge, forest officials said.