As hunters and other recreationists enjoy late summer in Montana, fire safety will be a critical part of a safe trip.
Montana is parched. Some parts of the state have seen little rain all summer long. More than 40 active wildfires are currently listed on federal incident management website for the state of Montana. Many other, smaller fires, are being managed on a local level. And still the dry weather, heat and smoke persist.
Being knowledgeable about current restrictions and fire safe behavior will help prevent more wildfires as hunting seasons begin around the state.
Upland game bird season begins Sept. 1 and general archery season starts Sept. 2.
Most active fires have associated land and/or road closures, which means that some Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands, trails and roads will be off-limits to hunters. Closures are dynamic, so check through the following resources for the current fire closures and maps.
For FWP lands, hunters and recreationists should check updates on fire-related restrictions and closures at state parks, fishing access sites or other FWP properties online at: fwp.mt.gov/news/restrictions.
Hunters must do their part to prevent wildfires and to keep themselves safe by following these fire safety precautions:
- Park your vehicle on bare ground or ground completely void of tall grass.
- Drive only on established roads.
- After you leave an area, wait for few minutes to make sure that a fire has not started where your vehicle was parked.
- Bring along a fire extinguisher or water-filled weed sprayer, shovel or axe.
- Camp only in designated camping areas.
- Smoke only inside buildings or vehicles.
- Check on any fire restrictions in place in the area where you are hunting.
- Consider limiting activity until fire danger lessens.
Wildfire information resources:
Several resources exist to help the public understand the current fire situation and what the impacts are.
Here is a list of some key resources hunters and recreationist might find useful.
This multiagency website is a clearing house for active fire information across the country. It’s easy to search for Montana and see most of the active fires burning in the state.
More than just what fires are burning where, each fire has its own web page with current information, such as area closure maps, fire activity and any evacuation notices.
Be aware that in many instances fire managers will close the area around the fire to ensure public and fire fighter safety. These local closures could include areas you might want to hunt or camp, so checking in here is a good step in making sure you have the latest information.
For Montana’s Inciweb page, click here.
Montana fire restrictions
In Montana, fire restrictions are often coordinated with land management agencies and the counties. Typically, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks follows the lead of the county where its land is located.
However, fire restrictions can vary from county to county depending on local conditions. A good online resource is firerestrictions.us. You can search for Montana and find the latest restrictions by county. To go directly to the Montana page, click here.
In general, Stage 1 restrictions ban campfires except where specifically exempted, allow cooking fires on propane devices that can be shut off and smoking only in vehicles and areas three feet in diameter that are cleared of flammable materials. People still may cook on an LP gas or propane stove that can be turned on and off.
Stage 2 restrictions start with regulations delineated by Stage 1 restrictions. In addition, Stage 2 restrictions ban welding, explosives, driving off of established roads and use of internal-combustion engines, except for vehicles on established roads, between 1 p.m. and 1 a.m. each day. Generators used in enclosed buildings or in an area cleared of vegetation specifically are exempted from Stage 2 restrictions.
Another great resource is the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation’s interactive wildland fire map. This interactive mapping tool shows all of the fires burning in the state and gives the user an idea of recent fire activity. Users can select different layers to view various information and for those folks concerned about specific locations, the base layer provide a high-resolution map or aerials of Montana.
To access this resource, go to gis.dnrc.mt.gov/apps/firemap.
Montana FWP’s Block Management Program is immensely popular with hunters and landowners alike. It is a cooperative program that pays landowners to allow hunters to access their land. With more than 850 block management areas in the state, there are more than 7 million acres of land enrolled in the program.
However, when conditions are dry and fire danger is high, landowners will restrict or close their block management areas to hunters.
Currently more than 80 BMAs are restricted or closed due to fire danger. The most current list of closed BMAs can be found on the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov/hunting/hunterAccess/blockman/.
Closure signs are also posted onsite at the BMA. If you do not have access to the internet, you can check in with FWP regional office closest to you.