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Bozeman has been spared the worst of fire season so far this year, but fire officials say that’s no reason to let your guard down now.

Ashley Sites, deputy fire staff for the Custer Gallatin National Forest, said cooler weather and rains have been helpful in keeping the handful of fire starts the area has seen from getting big.

But September’s arrival doesn’t mean the concern goes away.

“There’s still some fire season to come,” Sites said.

There have been big fires in Montana this year, including one near Helena that caused evacuations. The Mountain View fire has been burning north of Laurel over the last week, charring thousands of acres and moving quickly. Close to 50,000 acres in the state had burned as of Friday, according to the Northern Rockies Coordination Center.

Four fires are still cooking in Yellowstone, the largest being the Brimstone fire. Estimates put it at about 80 acres on Thursday. Park spokeswoman Morgan Warthin said Friday that fire staff didn’t plan to map the fire again for a few days.

Much of the action has been away from the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

Sites said there have been 10 fires total in the western part of the forest, which stretches from West Yellowstone to South Dakota. That total at this date is “below normal,” Sites said. He added that the forest’s fire crews have traveled to other blazes around the country, and they’ve done some thinning and fuel reduction work here.

Firefighters for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation have stayed busy, too. John Monzie, DNRC’s deputy fire protection bureau chief, said that as of Thursday the state agency had worked on about 200 fires totaling about 17,000 acres.

Monzie said fire danger this summer has been lower than the past few years, thanks to regular rains. But the weather over the next several weeks could end up being conducive for big fires. Big fires in September aren’t uncommon.

“It will take a change in the weather for us to see fire season end,” Monzie said.

Sites said that means people need to remain vigilant.

“There’s definitely still some danger out there for abandoned campfires, things like that,” he said. “If people aren’t being careful, that could be a problem.”

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Michael Wright can be reached at or at 406-582-2638. Follow him on Twitter @mj_wright1.

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