Montana is one of the most wildfire prone states in the U.S., ranking #4 of the top 10 states for number of fires and number of acres burned in 2021. Montana homeowners are also ranked 10th for being at risk for extreme wildfires in 2022. Wildfires can spread rapidly, posing a significant threat to life, property, and the environment. It’s essential to take steps to prevent wildfires and know how to respond if you encounter one. Here are some ways to help prevent wildfires:
- One of the most effective ways to prevent wildfires is to clear vegetation from around your home and property. Create a defensible space by removing dry leaves, grass, and shrubs within at least 30 feet of your home.
- Be cautious with outdoor activities that can potentially start a fire, such as campfires, fireworks, and outdoor cooking. Only start a fire in an approved fire pit and in a location allowed under local fire restrictions.
- Never throw cigarettes or other smoking materials out of a vehicle or discard them in a dry, grassy area. Always extinguish cigarettes in designated smoking areas or proper ashtrays.
- Properly maintain your vehicles, including lawnmowers, trimmers, and other equipment with internal combustion engines. Avoid using them in dry, grassy areas, especially during hot and windy conditions when the risk of wildfires is high.
- Stay updated. Follow local news and weather updates, and be aware of any fire warnings or evacuation orders issued by local authorities. Have an evacuation plan and know multiple escape routes in case of a wildfire.
If you see a wildfire or if you’re notified of a wildfire in your area:
- If you spot a wildfire, immediately call emergency services and report the fire. Do not attempt to extinguish the fire unless it is safe and you have proper training and equipment.
- If local authorities issue an evacuation order, follow it promptly. Leave the area immediately and take only essential items with you. Follow designated evacuation routes and avoid congested areas. If you have time, turn off gas and propane tanks, close windows and doors, and leave outside lights on for visibility.
- Stay updated with the latest information about the wildfire’s status and evacuation orders. Listen to local news and authorities for updates and instructions. Only return to the area once it is deemed safe by local authorities.
- Wildfires can produce smoke and ash that harm your health. Stay indoors and close all windows and doors if you are in an area affected by smoke. Use air purifiers and avoid outdoor activities until the air quality improves.
- If you encounter firefighters or other emergency personnel, cooperate with them and follow their instructions. They are trained to handle wildfires and are working to protect lives and property.
By taking proactive steps to prevent wildfires and knowing how to react if you encounter one, you can help protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community. Stay informed, follow fire safety guidelines, and be prepared to act quickly in a wildfire emergency.