By Derek Lennon EBS Contributor

Montana is the fourth biggest state in the United States. With an area covering just over 147,000 square miles (94 million acres), it’s one of the last best places. People from around the world visit Montana to escape the hustle and bustle of the real world. They are attracted to the vast forests, towering mountains, stunning lakes, abundant wildlife, impressive national parks, world class rivers and endless adventure.

Everyone can appreciate the wild lands that spread across Montana. Everyone also needs to treat those lands with respect—especially during fire season. Every year, as we are currently witnessing, ferocious wildfires ravage the landscape, fill the air with smoke, impact outdoor adventures, threaten homes and damage businesses. It’s impossible not to notice the hazy view and the smell of smoke in the air. It’s definitely fire season in Montana.

Fires are not uncommon in the western U.S. On average, fires burn millions of acres every season. Some of these fires are natural and others are caused by humans. When you combine dry, hot weather with wild land filled with fuel and a bit of wind, it’s the perfect combination for fires to thrive. Wildfires happen every year and this year is no exception.

Wildfires are both scary and destructive, but they can also benefit our natural world. For example, fires can provide new habitat, kill disease, refresh the forest floor, and more. Natural fires can be a necessary part of our ecosystem, but they still must be controlled.

Many of the wildfires currently burning across the country were sparked by natural causes, like lightning. Unfortunately, too many of the destructive fires scorching the western U.S. were caused by humans as a result of campfires, fireworks, burning waste, cigarettes or other avoidable means. This is unacceptable.

If you’re in Big Sky Country, it’s absolutely imperative that you treat our outdoor playground with respect.

Whether you’re camping, hiking, hunting, backpacking or road tripping, here are 10 ways to prevent forest fires in Big Sky Country:

– Check the weather.
– Respect fire danger signs, warning signs, permit requirements and bans.
– Never leave a fire unattended.
– Always fully extinguish any fire.
– Follow all rules and regulations when using fireworks.
– Choose appropriate locations to park vehicles, set up camp, shoot off fireworks, etc.
– Educate the people you are with.
– Be able to extinguish any fire that you start.
– Do not throw burning or smoking items, like cigarettes, from your vehicle.
– Alert authorities of any smoke or fire in the area.

As Smokey the Bear always says, “only you can prevent forest fires.” Please treat our lands with respect and do everything that you can do in order to prevent forest fires in Montana.

Visit mt.gov, firerestrictions.us, inciweb.nwcg.gov, or fsapps.nwcg.gov for the latest information on Montana fires.

Derek Lennon is a skier and writer who lives, works, and plays in the mountains of the world. He is based in Big Sky, Montana, where he lives with his wife Mia and two dogs.

A version of this story was originally published on the Visit Big Sky blog at https://visitbigskymt.com/ways-prevent-forest-fires/. Read more interesting content about the area on Visit Big Sky’s blog at https://visitbigskymt.com/category/blog/.