MISSOULA — The Fourth of July is synonymous with fireworks, a tradition that stems back generations.
But this year in Montana, there’s increased danger of fire -- and there are new fireworks available that should be used with extra caution. MTN News spoke with the Missoula Rural Fire District (MRFD) to learn more.
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“Normally, we are well prepared anyway to go fight fires but we're putting additional manpower on over the Fourth of July weekend to make sure that we have plenty of personnel available in case we do have any type of spot fires,” said MRFD Deputy Marshal Dodd McDermott.
Fire departments need to be on extra alert during the holiday this year due to hot and dry weather conditions. In addition to that, restrictions on skyrockets, Roman candles, and bottle rockets were removed this year by the State Legislature. According to McDermott, that's something new to be on top of for fire safety.
“It's not something that we've normally had, I mean they are reservation fireworks they've had those. But as far as down here it's been years and years since they've allowed those fireworks," McDermott said. "And again they are set up closer to the ground so they're actually still hot -- by the time they do touch the ground. And have a greater propensity of starting grass farms."
The use of fireworks is limited based on jurisdiction, but in areas where it’s legal, it’s important to note that fireworks like Roman candles and bottle rockets stay lit and they’re set off closer to the ground. For example, Roman candles shoot multiple times and may fly in unexpected ways, so preparation is key to avoid sparking a fire.
“So we would like people who are willing to use these types of fireworks to be able to be prepared, be in an area where they know it's safe, and that it's away from any fuels and stuff that may catch on fire," McDermott said. "ff they are going to use fireworks, we ask that they be prepared and have a hose handy or a fire extinguisher and ways to help extinguish fires if one should start. And if they do start a fire. Please notify 911 right away."
People setting off fireworks for the holiday should use caution and light them off in a safe location. Fire officials note causing a fire may lead to a financial obligation in putting it out.
Fireworks are banned on state lands, US Forest Service lands, Bureau of Land Management lands in Montana, and in national parks.