Open burning in Ravalli County (and most of Montana) started March 1st. In the Bitterroot Valley, the open burning season includes agricultural burning of fields and burning weeds and grasses along ditchbanks. The season stays open until forest fire season in late summer, when the dry conditions and the smoky conditions usually cause the Ravalli County Commission to close the open burning season.

In the last few years, the county has joined the statewide online burning permit system at burnpermit.mt.gov. The site lets you select the county, obtain a permit, activate an existing permit, renew an existing permit or view current burning activity (see map). The map shows active, completed and planned burns for the day. You must have a permit before you burn. On the day you plan to burn, go into the same website and "activate" your permit. That will allow 9-1-1 operators to better answer fire calls and determine if it is a controlled burn or something else.

A few tips from the fire chiefs in the valley:

  • Make a plan.
  • Have an operating water source
  • Get plenty of people to help
  • Burn in the morning! Bitterroot afternoon wind is unpredictable.
  • Remember, all of our fire departments in the Ravalli County are staffed by volunteers. They are good at what they do, but to call them out needlessly is a bad thing. Get a permit and use common sense.