State launches fire restrictions map; local officials urge caution as fire danger increases

The Northern Rockies Coordination Group and collaborating federal, state, and local agencies have launched to keep Montanans and visitors updated on current fire restriction information.

We have a personal responsibility to each another and our communities to take measures to prevent wildfire starts,” Gov. Greg Gianforte said in a release. “We have several counties already in Stage 1 and Stage 2 Fire Restrictions, and this website is a great tool for Montanans to stay informed and protect their loved ones.”

The new website hosts a geospatial map that depicts the specific fire restrictions order or proclamation for each federal, state, tribal, and local jurisdiction in Montana.

County rescinds Stage 1 fire restrictions [2020]

Stage 1 and Stage 2 Fire Restrictions are designed to limit human-caused activities that commonly start wildfires, such as campfires, smoking, or other activities that generate sparks. Each order or proclamation will outline the prohibited acts and exemptions; however, an exemption does not absolve an individual or organization from liability or responsibility for any fire started by the exempted activity.

“Every Montanan is impacted by longer, more severe wildfire seasons,” Amanda Kaster, DNRC director, said in a release. “Because we are all impacted by wildfire, we are all also responsible for proactively preparing and equipping our communities to reduce wildfire risk and mitigate its potential impacts. This website will provide Montanans with the best available information to keep themselves and others safe this summer.”

There are no fire restrictions in Cascade County as of June 29, but open burning is prohibited this week, according to the county burn permit website, due to “danger to firefighter safety.”

Fire restrictions will be modified in Cascade County to prohibit all campfires [2017]

Jason McAllister, Vaughn Volunteer Fire Department chief, said that there aren’t fireworks rules or restrictions in the county, but “hopefully people are safe with it, it’s pretty dry out there.”

McAllister asked that residents use common sense and have water with them and if they do start a fire, call 911 immediately. 

“It’s pretty hot and pretty dry,” he told The Electric, “we’d rather get the call and get people rolling.”

Jeremy Jones, Great Falls Fire Rescue chief, said residents should be careful and follow their fireworks safety tips, as well as the city regulations for fireworks.

GFFR reminds residents of fireworks rules, safety

He said that as conditions continue to dry and if it stays this hot with any wind, July 4 “could be a very busy day.”

“This is setting up to be one of the worst fire seasons we’ve ever seen,” Jones said.

Currently, there’s low flow in the rivers and it’s hot and dry, Jones said, a trifecta for high fire danger.

He likened it to the 1988 fire season that included major fires in Yellowstone National Park and other GFFR officials said conditions so far are similar to the 2017 fire season in Montana that burned a total of 743,313 acres statewide and cost as estimated $74.4 million, according to the Montana Department of Natural Resources.

In 2017, 53 percent of the fires were human caused and 46 percent were lighting caused and one percent had unknown causes.

This year, the Montana Legislature passed a law amending allowable fireworks to include bottle rockets, Roman candles and sky rockets, which had long been banned in the state. Firefighters are asking that residents exercise caution no matter the type of fireworks they’re using and be mindful of the dry conditions, as well as considerate of their neighbors who may not enjoy fireworks, veterans and pets.