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Just when Montana’s wildland firefighters extinguish one blaze, several more seem to crop up in its place.

Such is life in western Montana, where summer wildfires are part of the price we pay for the privilege of living in God’s country.

But some of the fires that have scorched our state so far this summer were avoidable, and we can all take steps to help minimize the risk of a human-caused blaze.

According to the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office, anyone who negligently starts a fire that destroys property can be charged with arson. That is punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 and a prison sentence of up to 10 years if it puts anyone in danger of death or bodily injury.

FireSafe Montana offers the following tips to help avoid a situation like that, or worse.

  • Use caution and common sense before lighting any fire.
  • Understand that any fire could become a wildfire.
  • Understand and practice proper guidelines for fire outdoors.
  • Never, ever leave any fire unattended.
  • Make sure any fire is properly and completely extinguished before leaving.
  • Properly extinguish and discard smoking materials.
  • Be aware of surroundings and careful when operating equipment during periods of dry or hot weather.
  • Speak up and step in when someone is in danger of starting a wildfire.

For more information on wildfire safety in Montana, visit http://firesafemt.org.

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You don’t have to be a parent to help raise a child.

Hundreds of volunteer mentors are doing just that through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Montana program. And Helena mentor Elena Johnson, 27, was recently recognized as one of the best of the best.

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Chosen from the eight Big Brothers Big Sisters chapters in Montana, Johnson has been selected as this year’s “Big of the Year” for the state of Montana. Johnson became a mentor to a 9-year-old girl two-and-a-half years ago, and they have maintained their relationship through the program ever since.

The pair meets up about once a week to spend time talking, gardening, hiking, getting ice cream or even floating down the river. Johnson’s consistency is what has really stood out, according to her nomination form.

We congratulate Johnson for this prestigious award, and we thank her for taking the time to make the world a better place for this young girl.

And we encourage others in the community to consider following her great example, as 57 Helena children are still waiting for a local mentor to do the same for them.

For more information on how to get involved in the program, call 442-7479 or stop by the BBBS Helena office at 30 W. 6th Ave.

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