The Ravalli County Commissioners are waiting until September 27 to lift the "open burn" ban in the valley. This Tuesday morning, the commissioners heard from Emergency Management Director Eric Hoover, Valley fire Warden Brad Mohn and others before deciding to lift the summer-long ban next week - with caution.

Mohn said that a majority of the chiefs of the volunteer fire departments in the All Valley Fire Council wanted to keep the ban in place longer, due to the unusually dry conditions at the valley floor. And, with temperatures forecast in the 70s into next week with no rain expected, the fire council wanted the ability to reinstate the ban if extreme conditions change. The commissioners agreed. If the fire departments are overwhelmed with escaped fires, they can re-institute the ban throughout the county.

Once the ban is lifted next week, the statewide Permit System is back in effect. You need to have a permit for open burning. However, besides the county ban, other reasons (primarily weather-related) can cause the website to not allow permits to be used that day. When you activate your permit, make sure of the conditions.

As always, if you plan to burn a field or a slash pile, make sure you have a ready supply of water, get some friends and neighbors to help and do not leave the fire unattended for any reason. At the end of the day, make sure the fire is out, so that it doesn't re-ignite with a sudden wind gust. Speaking of wind, burn early in the day, because winds often occur in the afternoons in the valley. However, if a fire does get out of control call 9-1-1.

This is one of the longer periods for a Ravalli County burning ban in recent years. That's because this has been an unusually hot and dry spring and summer. And, forecasters are predicting continued dry conditions for the near term. Missoula County was recently added to the drought disaster category by the US Department of Agriculture, allowing financial help for agricultural operations. Surrounding counties, including Ravalli County, are included in the USDA ability to receive emergency loans.

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