MISSOULA, MONT. – As days become shorter and temperatures drop, the Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation (DNRC) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) encourage hunters and campers to be cautious with their warming or campfires. Despite the changing weather conditions, vegetation will dry back out this fall and a spark from a warming or campfire could ignite a destructive wildfire.
“Over the years on walks through the forest, I have come across more than a few abandoned warming fires,” said DNRC Director John Tubbs. “At the time those fires were lit, conditions were wet and cool. But if those coals persist and conditions change, those warming fires have all the fuel they need to become wildfires.”
Before leaving home, check to see if there are fire restrictions for your destination. Be informed about local weather conditions and avoid building a fire during periods of high winds.
When building a warming or campfire, clear away all leaves and other combustible material. Do not build a fire underneath overhanging branches, against a tree stump, or directly on vegetation. Remember to store your firewood a safe distance upwind of the fire and always keep a bucket of water, dirt, and shovel nearby. Most importantly, never leave a fire unattended.
As you prepare to leave your campsite, make sure your fire is out and cold to the touch. Drown the fire with water. Make sure all embers, coals or sticks are wet. Stir the remains with a shovel. Add more water and dirt and then stir again. Be sure all burned material is extinguished and cooled. Place the back of your hand near the fire to feel for any heat. If it is still warm, continue adding water and dirt and stir again until everything is cool.
In 2019, six out of ten wildfires in Montana have been caused by humans. By being prepared and responsible while enjoying the outdoors this fall, we can all make a difference in reducing human-caused fires. Montana firefighters encourage you to remember, one less spark means one less wildfire.