It was a very busy 4th and 5th of July for the volunteer crews at Frenchtown Rural Fire District.

Spokesman Mel Holtz said the response kicked into high gear after fireworks started an entire barn full of tons of hay on fire.

“Crews were scrambling the fourth and in the early morning on the fifth,” said Holtz. “Just after 2:00 a.m. we received a call for a hay barn that was on fire. Upon arrival about 6,000 bales of hay were fully involved, along with some machinery, some ranch equipment and tractors. So it was big loss for the rancher on this one. The hay was recently baled and stored in there, and the preliminary causes showing that it looks like fireworks were involved, although we're still trying to sort that out now.”

Holtz said that was just the beginning of the fireworks related fire calls.

“In about an hour's time, we had eight calls come in stretching all the way from the ‘Y’ all the way out to Alberton,” he said. “So our volunteers were scrambling to cover each of those calls, which were all fireworks related. It's really dry out there. Obviously with the 90 to100 degree heat, it's really drying things out and we're going to be in I think for what could be a very busy season here.”

Holtz looked at the fires that have already occurred in Montana, even before the 4th of July.

“In Montana we're starting to see an early fire season,” he said. Three Forks, Montana in the early part of June had a fairly large fire roll into Townsend and the Deep Creek Fire about mid June, and then of course the fire going on in Red Lodge. It seems to be earlier than normal. We usually see some of this larger activity a little bit later and certainly in July or latter part of July, so it could be a very busy year this year.”

Holtz said now that fireworks season has passed, he urges campers to please make sure your campfires are completely dead out before you leave your campsite.

“Make sure your campfires are out,” he said. “Oftentimes we'll go patrolling and we'll stop by a campground and there are still some hot embers. There's still some coals that are that are smoking and somebody has vacated the campground so it doesn't take much for the wind to pick up to carry those embers or sparks into some dry grass and a lot of the wildfires we see our human starts.”

Fire danger is high, and Governor Gianforte has declared a statewide drought emergency.


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