Burning’s OK, but be careful

Fire chiefs urge people to delay

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Fall open burning season begins today in Flathead and Lake counties and will extend through Nov. 30.

However, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation asks that those conducting controlled, open burns take extra care this fall, since the continuing extreme drought in Northwest Montana has left forest fuels extremely dry, with a high potential for active fire behavior.

Fire chiefs in Flathead County go one step further: They ask that people voluntarily delay burning until more moisture is received and safer burning conditions return.

“Historically, the majority of human-caused fires within Flathead County are started by escaped debris burns,” said Craig Williams, chairman of the Flathead County Fire Chiefs Association and chief of the Evergreen Fire District.

Williams and other fire chiefs remind everyone that fire danger still remains high within the valley bottom.

“The recent frosts and continued lack of moisture have cured grass and brush that will readily carry fire not typically seen in normal seasons,” Williams said.

Williams added: “On behalf of the Flathead County Fire Chiefs Association, I would like to thank the Flathead community for observing the recent fire restrictions imposed during a record summer of high temperatures, low precipitation, and extremely high fire danger.”  

While no permits are required during the open burn season, air quality regulations require that only natural materials be burned. Burning is prohibited within the city limits of Kalispell, Whitefish and Columbia Falls.

If burning cannot be delayed, consider the following tips:

  •  Check weather forecasts and remain vigilant for unpredicted wind.
  •  Establish control lines by clearing the perimeter of the burn area down to mineral soil.
  •  Have adequate water, tools, and personnel to extinguish an escaped fire.
  •  Never leave a fire unattended.
  •  Start debris piles small and add material appropriately.
  •  Remember that you may be held financially responsible for suppression costs on any escaped fire.

Before burning in Flathead County, call the air quality ventilation hotline at 751-8144. Lake County residents can call 1-800-225-6779.

Burning information also is on the website www.flatheadhealth.org.

For additional information regarding debris burning or any fire safety questions, contact your respective fire district.

Responsible parties can be required to pay the suppression costs of wildfires — whether or not they were accidental.

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