As you can tell by the rapid snowmelt on the Bitterroot Mountains (photo above), it has been hot and dry in Montana. And that includes the valley floor, where grasses are drying out weeks ahead of normal. The Ravalli County Commissioners, at the advice of the Ravalli County volunteer fire departments and the County Emergency Management coordinator, has closed the Open burning season, effective shortly after midnight Friday Morning, July 2.

The ordinance bans all field burning or outdoor debris burning in Ravalli County. The burn permit system is also shut down. The restrictions do allow personal campfires or cooking fires, not larger than 48 inches in diameter, and they must be attended and then completely extinguished, with coals cold to the touch. The Bitterroot's open burning bans usually happen in mid-summer. For instance, the closure in 2019 was on July 31st.

Because of the extreme dryness, Hamilton Fire Chief Brad Mohn also urged people to not have private fireworks this year. He said that, if you do shoot off your own fireworks, make sure you have a water supply and, when you're done, pick up the remnants and put them in a 5-gallon bucket of water. And, then wait a while, looking for possible smoke in the area. Instead of doing your own display, he encouraged attendance at the public fireworks displays in Hamilton, Stevensville, Florence and Missoula. In Hamilton, the display will be Sunday night at the Ravalli County Fairgrounds, starting after 10 p.m.

The Bitterroot National Forest is at a "High" fire danger, and Fire Management Officer Mark Wilson said a "Very High" danger level is near because of the weather conditions. He said that abandoned campfires have already been found, as early as mid-June, and some had escaped the fire rings when Forest Service personnel caught the burning. He also urged people to not park in dry grasses, because an auto's exhaust system can easily start a fire.

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