Fire experts urge caution as danger increases to 'moderate'
MISSOULA, Mont. - The Missoula County Fire Protection Association upgraded the fire danger to "moderate" Thursday. Officials advise people to be cautious during the weekend, especially with the hot and dry weather that is expected.
Fire Protection Coordinator Harold Gemmell explained the green vegetation and recent rain are deceptive, because a lot of grass is dry and would provide good fire fuel.
The 4th of July holiday weekend means getting outdoors and camping. AAA projects 4.1 million people will be traveling this holiday weekend, but additional tourists and hot, dry weather has officials concerned.
"Anybody that's out recreating the forest, we want to remind them that if they're starting a campfire that they need to clear the area around them, especially if it's an unimproved campground," said Gemmell.
Gemmell says a campfire can quickly become a dangerous fire situation.
"That they're not lighting a fire under any low-hanging branches, anything like that, and not let the fire get too big in size," explained Gemmell.
It's a busy weekend for Jellystone RV Park in Missoula. Campers can have campfires in designated areas, but managers keep a close eye during the summer heat.
"We just kind of look at it day by day, and if we feel that things are getting a little bit questionable, then we always err on the caution side, so then we will automatically make sure that there are no fires in the campground," said Jellystone's owner, Tom Mahlum.
Though fireworks are popular across the nation this weekend, they are not allowed at Jellystone RV park.
"We prefer it to be in a cleared area, a very large cleared area with hopefully either pavement or bare ground gravel," explained Gemmell.
Experts told NBC Montana that campfire flames should not exceed 4 feet.