Wildfires are a common occurrence during summer months – especially July through September, when the air and ground are hot and dry. Drifting smoke can aggravate allergies and even cause respiratory distress. More dangerous, of course, is getting caught in a fire front without an escape route to a safety zone.
You should know the implications of the different stages of fire restrictions. These are imposed county by county. The Eureka area is in Lincoln County. Know that if a Stage II fire restriction has been imposed, you may not light even a match, never mind a campfire. Moreover, if conditions worsen, there is no Stage III – instead, the forest will be closed and you will be asked to leave.
A map of Montana with current fire-restriction areas is at firerestrictions.us. Lincoln County is the area in the upper lefthand corner of the state.
If you will be within range of a cell-phone tower (or have satellite service), you can register with the national CodeRed emergency service.
Here are some resources to check out before you head out hiking or camping in fire-prone areas.
BC Wildfire Services hosts a frequently updated map of fires in Canada just north of the Eureka area. If you see smoke to the north or northwest, try to locate the source on this website, and remember that our prevailing winds are from the west.
In Montana, InciWEB lists major fires with their location and size. Unfortunately, this site includes only established fires – not new occurrences.
Fire Safe Montana posts InciWEB data but also gives useful information on how to protect your home and how to evacuate.
The Northern Rockies Coordination Center has a huge amount of information on current fire activity, including current fire weather, dispatch center reports such as the one for the Kootenai (click on “Recent Incidents” on the left), and detailed fire maps. It does not include Canada.
The U.S. EPA still maintains a website giving fire and especially smoke locations across the country and into Canada.
GeoMac gives information on active wildfires nationwide through its online map. While updated daily, it does not include information on Canadian wildfires.
The National Interagency Fire Center gives detailed and useful information about wildfires across the country. Of special interest is the right-hand column, which gives phone numbers for additional information.
The National Weather Service Fire Weather site has useful information on drought conditions, which of course feed fire activity.
If you have access to ham radio, RadioReference.com lists frequencies in Lincoln County related to fire services. It includes information about most current fire activity from Incident Page Network (which unfortunately requires membership).
The Town of Eureka posts alerts on its Facebook page, which is a useful source of information about many things. On Facebook, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office posts current information on fire activity.
If you see smoke and cannot identify a controlled situation, please call 911 or (406) 297-2121 in the Eureka area. Never assume “the other guy” has already called. He’s assuming the same of you.
If you feel you are suffering from smoke caused by a wildfire, you may submit a complaint to the U.S. Forest Service.