GREAT FALLS- Yesterday's wildfire near Hill 57 sparked some concern when it came to alerting community members about if/when they should evacuate their homes.
However, fire officials say they have plans in place for if that day ever comes.
“If we have to evacuate you, we can use Code Red,” says Chief Hester of the Great Falls Fire Dept.
“You'll have to actually go onto the website and sign in and that will give you alerts of when we have a fire that is going to require evacuation,” explains Vaughn Ass. Fire Chief Ken Hanks.
Here's how it works. If fire officials feel they need to evacuate a certain area, they'll highlight that specific portion on a virtual map and send a mass message to anyone living in the area.
“If we hit code red, it'll ring your phone at your house, it will come on a text, it will come on your email. Whatever you want it to do, and then that's how you get warned. Then you know,” explains Hester.
However, this isn't the only plan in place when it comes to letting you know about an evacuation.
“Normally, if it comes down to an emergency, they can do what's called a reverse 9-1-1 notification to notify people that we're doing an evacuation and you need to get out,” says Hanks.
Once these messages are sent out, it shouldn't be more than 3 to 4 minutes before you receive it.
If all else fails, fire and law enforcement officials will do things the old fashioned way.
When we start doing that door to door stuff, that's really... You won't have any trouble realizing it's time to get out,” says Hester.
“Firefighter's will assist, but normally it's going to be Sheriff's office, maybe MHP, maybe even city of Great Falls,” further explains Hanks.
If you’re suspicious of the person telling you to leave, your best option is to quickly call 9-1-1 and ask the dispatch operator about evacuations.
However, there are times evacuations aren't necessary; even if the fire looks threatening.
Or if all of the above doesn't work, your best option is to simply stay put.
“You know, if it's a fire that's going to pinch on them, yes, by all means I would definitely evacuate. But if you're a couple blocks into the city, you're just going to be dealing with smoke, shelter in place. Close up the windows, shut off the A/C to prevent that smoke from entering the building,” says Hanks.
While the decision ultimately comes down to you, fire officials are asking community members to rethink some of the other decisions when it comes to wildfires.
More specifically, driving towards them to take pictures and videos.
Not only is this unsafe for you and everyone else, but it also makes it harder for fire fighters to do their jobs.
In addition to this, fire crews do not only have to worry about the fire spreading, but now they're dealing with several people that shouldn’t be there in the first place.
Constantly having to stop behind someone with their phone pulled out not only increases the risk of getting into an accident, but can make the difference between life and death.
One of the best ways you can help is by staying away from any wildfires and giving fire fighters the room they need to do their jobs.