HELENA – The month of March marks the beginning of open burning season in Montana.
Officials are reminding people to pay attention to what they’re burning and the weather conditions they’re burning in to prevent health risks.
In Lewis and Clark County, anyone doing slash, debris or land-clearing burning must get a permit through the county.
“Burn permits are easy to do and can be bought online through the County’s website,” said Tri-lakes Volunteer Fire Chief Bob Drake.
Burn permits are $8.00 for a new one or $5.00 if a person bought one in the past and still has their number.
Fires should be monitored at all times and burned as hot as possible to prevent particulates from being released into the air.
Drake urges resident to check the air quality and make sure the valley isn’t inverted before beginning any burning operations to help protect everyone’s breathing.
“Just because you can burn– it’s a great time t burn because of the snow on the ground, but if the air quality is bad and we’re having inversions please don’t burn,” said Drake. “You’re going to put all that smoke into the valley.”
The Helena valley air quality reached “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” on March 8. If air quality is declared “Poor” the county will implement prohibitions on all burning– including home wood stoves.
Drake notes if the valley’s air quality affects everyone and can be particularly hard for those with lung conditions like asthma.
“Not burning during an inversion is just the respectful thing to do,” Drake added.
The Montana Department of Environmental Equality note only clean, untreated wood and plant material can be burned.
Materials prohibited from open burning include food waste, plastic, animal carcasses or any hazardous materials.
A complete list of burning constraints can be found on the Montana Secretary of State’s website.
If a person is considering burning, the best thing they can do is reach out to their local fire officials.