Scheduled burns underway in Cascade County

Posted at 10:41 AM, Apr 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-20 12:41:21-04

Scheduled burns are underway in several areas of Cascade County.

Several people have reported seeing smoke in and around Great Falls.

At this time, we do not know of any wildfires or structure fires, and the smoke being seen is from scheduled burns.

You can apply for a burn permit online, or check the current burns, by clicking here.

(MARCH 28, 2018) Firefighters say, because of the current weather conditions around the area, now may be a good time to complete any outdoor burning.

The annual open burning season started on March 1. Landowners need to purchase a burn permit, then activate it each day they plan to burn. That helps firefighters determine whether a report of smoke comes from a controlled fire.

“We don’t want to pull our volunteers out of their jobs for something that’s not an emergency,” said Bob Drake, chief of the Tri-Lakes Volunteer Fire Department. “So we really want people to activate their permits and do the stuff that they need to do.”

In Lewis and Clark County, a new permit costs $8, while a property owner can renew a permit from the year before for $5.

Residents in 17 counties around Montana – including Lewis and Clark, Cascade, Broadwater and Jefferson – can purchase or activate permits using an online tool. The website also displays any announced controlled burns in those areas.

In many counties, residents can also activate their permits using a 24-hour automated phone system:

Lewis and Clark County: 1 (877) 453-BURN (2876)
Cascade County: 1 (855) 693-BURN (2876)
Broadwater County: 1 (855) 808-BURN (2876)
Jefferson County: 1 (888) 583-6499

Drake said he always encourages property owners to get burning done earlier in the season.

“You don’t know what the summer is going to bring,” he said.

He said the ground is still relatively moist in most places, so the fires are less likely to spread. He said large brush piles can even be burned in the rain, which can help keep down any embers.

Drake said each landowner is responsible for deciding whether it’s too windy to burn, since variations in terrain and vegetation can make a big difference. He also warned that, if winds pick up, they can reignite burn piles days after the initial fire went out.

“Just because you burned two, three, four days ago, doesn’t mean your responsibility is over,” he said. “Your responsibility continues, and on these windy days that are forecast, make sure you go back and check your piles.”

Drake said several large fires, like the 2012 Corral Fire in the Scratchgravel Hills, started after a controlled burn was reignited.

“It’s a tragedy that we can avoid, if we work together,” he said.

If a permitted burn gets out of control, the owner can be fined and could be responsible for the costs of putting the fire out and for any damages caused to neighboring properties.

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