DILLON - The U.S. Forest Service says that of the 84 fires reported in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest last year, 73 were caused by humans.
“They’re dangerous, expensive and largely preventable,” said U.S. Forest Service Spokesperson Catherine McRae.
This was a higher than normal number of human-caused fires that puts a strain on the Forest Service’s resources. Last year, the Beaverhead-Deerlodge had 31 reports of fires in one day.
“And so when you think about approximately 3.4 million acres with 31 fire starts spread out across it, our firefighters need to go respond to check out, 31 in one day is a big stretch,” said McRae.
Many of the fires started in early fall during hunting season when hunters didn’t fully extinguish camp or warming fires.
“If you walked away from that warming fire without fully extinguishing it a lot of those would come back to life and if there’s any kind of dry vegetation, especially the fine fuels, the winds hit it and it’s off and moving as an uncontrolled fire,” said Fire Staff Officer Mike Goicoechea.
The pandemic also brought more people to the forests for recreation last year.
“The requirement for social distancing, you had a lot of people working from home finding themselves enclosed situations, and when they sought enjoyment with their family or others the natural way to social distance was to go out and enjoy the Forest,” said McRae.
And once this long winter and pandemic come to a close, forest officials expect to see a lot of people getting out to the great outdoors, which is even more reason for people to be conscious of fire safety.
“As soon as the nice whether comes out this spring, recreationists are going to want to get out and that dry, fine fuel can easily contribute to a fire, so we’re asking for everybody to be extremely cautions when they’re outdoors,” said Goicoechea.