Cooler weather has certainly made it more comfortable in Montana this week. But there are still uncomfortable days ahead for firefighters continuing to clean up existing fires, and watch for more fire starts in the coming week.

Still, fire restrictions have eased after this week's heavy rains, meaning you can resume some summer activities.

However, fire managers are urging people to continue their vigilance to keep from starting new fires as temperatures climb again this weekend.

Friday morning, the Missoula County Fire Protection Association lowered Missoula fire danger to "moderate", reflecting the cooler, wet weather of the past week.

The "moderate" warning means people can still start accidental fires, and with the exception of lightning-caused fires in certain areas, the number of fire starts is "generally low." Because it's late summer, grass fires can burn quickly and spread rapidly on windy days. Forest fires spread "slowly to moderately fast."

Still some restrictions

Because we still haven't had a "season-ending" weather event, some restrictions and precautions remain in place. You can have a campfire, but only in established fire rings away from combustibles. Fires shouldn't be left alone, and extinguished until they are cool to the touch. Open burning remains closed.

Granite County, Lake County, and the Flathead Indian Reservation (CSKT lands) have also dropped back to Stage 1 restrictions. In those areas, campfires are still restricted outside developed recreation sites. And smoking is limited to inside enclosed vehicles or buildings, or in developed recreation sites and while stopped in an area where the ground is cleared at least three feet in diameter.

Firefighting continues

Fire crews continue to monitor and fight several large fires, including the Big Knife Fire near Arlee, and the River Road East Fire in Sanders County, which has burned more than 17,000 acres since it started as a grass fire last week.

DNRC reports Montana has had 1,331 fires this year, although although the area burned has remained fairly low, at just over 105,000 acres.

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