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Two fires in Cascade County on Wednesday

Two fires in Cascade County on Wednesday
Posted at 6:58 PM, Apr 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-03 21:01:53-04

Many people in Great Falls noticed a huge plume of smoke from a fire near Malmstrom Air Force Base on Wednesday, April 3, 2024.

People began reporting the smoke just after 10 a.m. This caused some concern initially among residents, as the fire was not listed on the Montana Burn Permit website.

However, Great Falls Fire Rescue confirmed a short time later that it was a prescribed burn and had been permitted.

Brad Call, the Disaster & Emergency Services (DES) manager for Cascade County, explained, “Certain times of the year, farmers and ranchers will burn fields to burn off stubble and other things. and this also requires a burn permit.”

State policy acknowledges that prescribed and controlled burning can improve forest and rangeland environments and lessen the effects of wildfire. A burn permit covers vegetative material only - it does not cover items such as chemicals or synthetics such as rubber or plastic, dead animals, household garbage, or treated wood.

Call noted, “Burn permits are really, really important to use, apply for and have in your possession. Throughout Cascade County, one of the main reasons is if a fire is reported or a plume of smoke is detected within the county. a lot of citizens are concerned this might be a wildfire or something that's out of control. So if you have a current burn permit that is activated and properly done, county dispatch can look at that, see if there is one that is activated in the area and they can reassure callers that this is an active and allowed burn.”

A few hours later on Wednesday, one such permitted burn got out of control due to gusty winds. This fire was burning west of Great Falls and southwest of Vaughn.


Joey Zahara of Vaughn Fire & Rescue explained, “This afternoon, we got called out here for a wildland fire in the river bottom here. Arriving on scene, we had a working fire in the river bottom and some heavy brush with heavy fuel loads. At this time we have the fire contained, we are in mop up stage, so we are making sure that the trees are taken care of, all the brush is taken care of.”

There was no reported damage to any structures and no injuries.

Click here to visit the Burn Permit website - you can see where burns have been permitted in each Montana county.