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Montana's fire risk is dropping, but we're not out of the woods yet

Firefighters work to put out a forest fire.
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Officials from Montana’s Department of Natural Resources and Conservationsays many of the human-caused blazes come from escaped campfires.

The fire preparedness level in the Northern Rockies region dropped to a lower level this week, but officials from Montana’s Department of Natural Resources and Conservation are cautioning against the perception that fire season is coming to an end.

Julia Berkey with DNRC says although the number of wildfires can start to decrease this time of year, the likelihood that the fires we do have are human-caused increases.

“Ultimately, what we tend to see now is that while there's fewer lightning ignited fires, there are more human caused fires," she said. "We're not out of the woods yet."

Berkey says many of the human-caused blazes come from escaped campfires. She says it’s important to remember dry vegetation from a hot summer is still ready to ignite.

“We don't have snow on the ground yet, essentially, to stop the fire," Berkey said. "So this is a great time of year for things to burn still, even though we've seen a lot more moisture in the air, that vegetation remains dry.”

So far this summer Montana has had 1865 wildland fires, 50 of which are still active. Almost half of this summer’s fires have been human caused.

Ellis Juhlin is YPR's Statehouse reporter based in Helena.