Open burning to resume in Ravalli County, depending on conditions

Posted at 6:27 PM, Sep 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-28 20:27:27-04

(HAMILTON)- Open burning is set to resume Sunday morning in Ravalli County, although fire officials will be watching these dry conditions very closely.

Ravalli County commissioners have been monitoring the dry fall weather as they field calls from people who want to conduct controlled burns on their property. And this week they ordered a conditional lifting of restrictions, using the Ravalli County Burn Permit System, with the final decision up to the county fire warden.

“So we’re going to allow him the discretion to open or leave it closed,” explained Ravalli County Commissioner Jeff Burrows. “And it may be one of those things where he opens it for a day or two. And then if there’s a red flag warning or a weather advisory he might close it for a day or two and then open it back up. So people will have to check the website or call the hotline to get the information on whether it’s open.”

While the record summer dry spell ended a month ago, conditions in the Bitterroot and across Western Montana have continued to be very dry and warm, with daytime temperatures climbing into the 70s. That means fields, and forests are just about as dry as they were in August, with grasses and brush ready to begin a rapid burn.

Because there have been a few “close calls”, Burrows said commissioners say they’re trying to strike a balance between accommodating property owners and still keeping public safety in mind.

“So it’s all about public safety and that potential for loss of property for a wildfire to escape. Because we’ve seen some of those small fires that are even maintained and have some water around them, but you get that wind gust and they get out of control with conditions the way they are now. It’s still dangerous burn situation. But we do want to accommodate those property owners that want to clean up their property and take care of that so.”

Starting Sunday, the Bitterroot National Forest will reduce the fire danger from “high” to “moderate”.

Ravalli County’s burn permit information can be found online.