SOUTHWEST MONTANA – Most of the Mountain West is held in the grip of widespread drought conditions, and although it is only early June, fire season has already begun.
Unseasonal elevated temperatures, low humidity, a dwindling snowpack and high winds have all contributed to the early fire season, according to Big Sky Fire Department Chief Greg Megaard.
“I’m born and raised here, and I’ve never seen temperatures in the high 90s and hundreds in early to mid-June,” he said.
Due to the high fire danger, Megaard said the department has closed permitted debris burning until the conditions improve, and he urges residents to ensure all campfires are out.
As of EBS press time, three fires were currently burning in Montana: the Deep Creek Canyon Fire, Robertson Draw Fire and Crooked Creek Fire.
In recent days, the plume of smoke that has been visible north of Bozeman can be attributed to the Deep Creek Canyon Fire.
Last week, the Willow Creek Fire just north of Three Forks was initially reported on June 8, but is now contained. Megaard said the BSFD sent a few people there last weekend to help and that there is currently one Big Sky firefighter in Red Lodge helping with efforts related to the Robertson Draw Fire, which has grown to 21,000 acres as of EBS press time.
Megaard emphasized that, “our number one goal is to protect the resident community here in Big Sky.”
He said that the fire department just finished a tabletop exercise with the sheriff’s office along with other Big Sky organizations to talk about the evacuation plan in the event of an emergency. Megaard explained that the response will depend on the location of the fire, but residents can visit the fire department’s website for more information on how to be prepared.
Megaard urges the Big Sky community to be aware of the extreme conditions and careful of their actions.
“Everybody be cognizant of really paying attention to what they’re doing and the potential impact that may have, not only on themselves, but [also] their neighbors, and to be very cautious because you know, it’s green, it’s very dry and things will burn,” he said.