GREAT FALLS- Two more fires were started yesterday; a 500 acre fire in Havre and a 5 acre fire in Belt, both of which were caused by farming equipment.
“To lose 500 acres of standing grain would be devastating,” says Erik Somerfeld, the Fire Chief of Power.
Living in Montana, wildfires are an expected part of every summer; taking out homes and thousands of acres with them.
However, farmers have much more at risk.
According to Somerfeld, 500 acres of standing grain is valued around $100- $150,000.
Sadly, it doesn’t end there. Farmers take much more than a financial loss when it comes to wildfire across the state.
“Even beyond then, you've lost that stubble to catch winter snow and protect from wind and water, soil erosion later on; so those dollar numbers are a little bit harder to qualify,” explains Somerfeld.
Most farmers usually have insurance to help cover some of the costs when crops are lost to natural events such as hail or fire; but there are also some precautions farmers should take while out in the field.
“We suggest having a 2 ½ gallon pressurized water can and a 20 pound dry chemical fire extinguisher on every machine,” explains Somerfeld.
In addition to this, it’s important to inspect farm equipment after a day’s work, especially in warmer temperatures.
Ensure you spray off any debris and chaff from your equipment, as well as making sure nothing overheated.
Contrary to what many might think, you're first reaction shouldn't be to fight the fire.
“Call 9-1-1 immediately. I don't care if you call right back 2 minutes later and say we got it out,” says Somerfeld.
Protecting farmland against wildfires doesn't end there, in fact, it takes more than one person, or even a fire brigade, to keep back the flames.
“If you see a smoke column and you have a water truck or tractor disk, probably a good idea to head that direction because it's probably somebody that's going to need some help, and it may be you next time,” explains Somerfeld.