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Big Sky Connection  The West is experiencing a hot summer, and with wildfire season here, conditions likely will heat up in Montana as well. Comments from Rocky Infanger, board member, FireSafe Montana; and Kevin Moran, associate vice president for regional affairs, Environmental Defense Fund.


Click on the image above for the audio.   Parts of Montana will see above-average fire activity in August and September, according to the National Interagency Fire Center's predictions. (Andy Dean/Adobe Stock)

Eric Tegethoff

The western United States is facing extreme weather, including long-lasting droughts, heat and an above-average wildfire season. For Montanans, the wildfire season has yet to kick into full gear, but is expected to in the coming month.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, the year-to-date acres burned in the U.S. is about 220% above the 10-year average.

Rocky Infanger, a board member of FireSafe Montana, said the season may be off to a slow start, but Montana communities saw devastating fires at the end of last year.

"We're not generally used to fires in that time of the year, the winter-type months," Infanger observed. "But we're not getting the snow that we normally would, so we're just starting to see fires longer and longer."

Last December, a wildfire burned down dozens of homes in the town of Denton, which is east of Great Falls. The town of Browning, on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, also experienced fire devastation at the end of last year.

Infanger pointed out there are a few things people should keep in mind during fire season. He advised it is important to have addressing on your home, so firefighters can find you. He added people should know how to escape an encroaching fire.

"When it's time to evacuate, you need to be prepared, you need to have a plan," Infanger recommended. "Where are you going? What are you going to take with you? If you're given 15 minutes, are you prepared to go?"

Infanger emphasized people should remember to bring things like water, medications and a first aid kit.

Kevin Moran, associate vice president of regional affairs for the Environmental Defense Fund, said the more intense wildfire seasons, along with a brewing water crisis in the Colorado River and years of drought, are signs climate change is barging down the door in the western U.S.

"It's not enough just to fight the fire, if you will," Moran stressed. "We have to do that. But we also have to address the underlying causes of extreme heat, megadrought and wildfires, and that cause is climate pollution and the increasing temperatures which is creating those crises."

Moran argued Congress should ensure the country is investing in resilience and strategies to accelerate the transition to a clean-energy economy.