Hot, dry Montana conditions prompt counties to issue fire restrictions in an effort to prevent man-made wildfires
Nine out of ten wildfires this year were man-made, says Kristin Sleeper, fire information manager at the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.
“Every Montanan is affected by these longer and more severe wildfire seasons and fire restrictions are one of the many tools we have to prevent man-made wildfires,” Sleeper said.
Dozens of counties as well as the Crow Nation have Stage 1 fire restrictions. These restrict where to smoke, light fires and campfires, and operate motorized vehicles off-road and off-road.
The Stage 1 restrictions do not ban fireworks, although local authorities and fire departments are urging residents not to light fireworks.
Yellowstone, Musselshell and Stillwater counties have taken the next step and have issued much stricter Step 2. These restrictions prohibit campfires, severely restrict smoking, and prohibit the lighting of fireworks.
Yellowstone County commission chairman Don Jones said commissioners looked at dire conditions in the county when they voted to issue Stage 2.
“We didn’t see such conditions so we made the tough decision to go to the Stage 2 restrictions and you can’t do fireworks,” Jones said.
Deputy Sheriff Sam Bofto said Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Deputies will enforce the restrictions, issuing citations under the annotated Montana code sections.
“This is a criminal offense, they will receive an NTA. This code is used so that the fireworks do not present a danger to people, animals, property or that sort of thing,” said Bofto.
As the danger of fireworks increases, the severity of the offense also increases. If the fireworks start a fire that causes damage to structures or property …
“The individual would be charged with negligent arson.”
Individuals could also be held responsible for restitution of property damage and firefighting costs.
The restrictions in Step 2 do NOT prohibit the sale of fireworks or the possession of fireworks. They only prohibit the lighting of fireworks.
Professional public fireworks are also allowed during the Stage 2 restrictions. But these public shows are organized by fireworks professionals who apply for permits 15 days in advance, have insurance, the local fire department agreement and have fire trucks on site.
Fire restrictions can and will change as the fire danger increases this summer.
To keep people in the know, Kristin Sleeper of the DNRC says Montana wildfire protection agencies are launching a new website this week www.mtfireinfo.org to keep all Montanais and visitors up to date with current information on fire restrictions.
Sleeper says this new website will host a geospatial map that outlines specific fire restrictions. She says you’ll be able to read the proclamations and get a better idea of what is and is not allowed this fire season.