Citing recording-breaking dry conditions, the Ravalli County Commission voted 3-2 to ban any ignition of fireworks in the county, starting at 12:01 a.m. Friday, July 3.

There are two exceptions - the annual Hamilton public fireworks display at the Ravalli County Fairgrounds and the annual Florence fireworks display - both scheduled for Saturday, July 4, at dusk.

The general ban follows similar action by Missoula County for the same reasons - the heatwave is continuing. The area national forests are moving into Stage I fire restrictions at the same time, Friday morning at 12:01 a.m. and the burning conditions throughout western Montana are extreme.

The commissioners also unanimously declared an emergency in Ravalli County, which opens up portions of the local emergency plan and allows some aid and assistance to protect public safety, lives and property.

Other restrictions as of Friday morning prohibit campfires in the county. The only campfires allowed will be residential campfires used for cooking, including briquette and LP gas fires. Those fires must be continuously attended and a water source must be available.

The Ravalli County Sheriff's Office will handle fireworks violations.

The restrictions will continue until further notice.

Commissioners Greg Chilcott and J.R. Iman voted against the fireworks ban, arguing for either allowing fireworks through July 4th or establishing certain areas where fireworks would be allowed. Commissioners Hawk, Schallenberger and Burrows voted for the Friday morning cutoff.

The commission heard from County Fire Warden Brad Mohn, Corvallis Fire Chief Jim Knapp, Bitterroot National Forest fire management officer Mark Wilson, among others, before making their decision Tuesday in a two-hour meeting.