An unusually damp early summer has given us a lush, verdant countryside. But it’s a gift with a potential danger. The July showers pushed thoughts of a smoky fire season to the backs of our minds. But that fire season is upon us now, and that means it’s time to think differently.

As afternoon thundershowers give way to extended rainless days and weeks, all that verdant undergrowth will turn to fuel, and that can lead to more intense than usual wildfires. Going forward into the second half of summer, much more care must be taken with fire on all our trips to the forests and grasslands around us.

Fires are already cropping up in parts of the region. Lightning-ignited fires in the Helena area were quickly brought under control by firefighters but not before they forced numerous evacuations. A spate of Eastern Montana blazes recently ignited in Rosebud, Custer, Garfield and Prairie counties. To date the blazes have been small and manageable. But that can change quickly as summer’s dry heat sets in.

History tells us that fire danger can increase suddenly this time of year. Those who live in the so-called wildland urban interface need to be particularly alert for those changes. Population growth in these zones in and around forestland have posed particular challenges to fire suppression efforts when firefighters are forced to protect structures rather than employing a strategy to control the blaze as a whole. Homeowners can minimize these challenges by maintaining a wide margin around structures free of flammable undergrowth. Homeowners in these areas would also be wise to pack a small bag of essentials — including important keepsakes and documents — and be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice.

And it goes without saying that those who work and play in the backcountry heighten their awareness of wildfire danger and take measures to prevent them. Keep cooking fires small and use gas stoves when available.

Yes, we’ve had a luxuriant spring and summer so far that has given us enviable green vistas all around. But the fire season is upon us now, and it’s time to act accordingly.

Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Don Beeman, community member
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Sarabeth Rees, community member
  • David Swingle, community member

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