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Outdoor burning to reopen Monday on day-to-day basis

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Fall burning season closes

The fall burning season closed Tuesday, Nov. 30. The season for outdoor debris burning will remain closed through Feb. 28, according to a Ravalli County Office of Emergency Management press release.

Ravalli County residents will be able to legally start touching off their burn piles Monday, Sept. 27, but fire officials say that people shouldn’t let down their guard against wildfire just yet.

The Ravalli County Commission decided Monday to rescind the burn ban that’s been in place since July 1. Residents will be required to activate a free burn permit.

Fall outdoor burning will be open on a day-to-day basis depending on air quality restrictions and fire danger conditions from Sept. 27 through Nov. 30.

The commission has given County Fire Warden Brad Mohn the discretion to close open burning down depending on conditions.

“If we have a cold front with high winds in the forecast, it can be shut down until that passes,” Mohn said. “It is dry. People need to have a water source with them and their fires need to be manned. They shouldn’t leave them and go out to dinner. People need to stay with them until they are out.”

The county’s move to allow open burning follows the Bitterroot National Forest’s decision to drop fire danger last week to moderate following some precipitation and a forecast for cooler temperatures.

On Wednesday, Bitterroot Forest Fire Management Officer Mark Wilson said it’s still too early to put this year’s fire season to bed.

The weather forecast changed since the agency’s decision to drop fire danger down a notch, with a chance of temperatures soaring back into the 80s this weekend and the potential of a couple of weeks of dry weather.

“The weather forecast changed from cool and damp,” Wilson said. “We now have fuels drying back out … It’s not out of the realm of possibility that we could be looking at moving fire danger back up to high. Even with shorter days, we could still see some real active fire behavior if we get new starts.”

Last week, Wilson said firefighters responded to several small human-caused fires. A recent wind event pushed the Lynx Fire that’s burning west of the Selway River to 11,694 acres. That fire is now about a mile and a half from the Running Creek Ranch on the Selway River.

A new fire was spotted near the Paradise Campground near the state border.

While the Bitterroot Forest didn’t have any large fires that were visible to the general public this summer, Wilson said firefighters did respond to 78 starts. The 10-year average is 68 fires.

Despite record heat and dryness levels, most of the fires this summer remained small.

“There was a lot of good work accomplished this summer by firefighters,” Wilson said. “We definitely had some luck that came with it. Unlike other forests that were hammered early by fire starts, ours were spread out through the season. The rain that we received — even though it wasn’t a lot — came right after the lightning and gave us some time to attack the fires early.”

Fire officials hope to keep that streak going through the tail-end of the fire season.

A Ravalli County press release reminded residents to check weather conditions before conducting any open burns and to be sure they have enough water, tools or equipment, and people available to keep their fires under control.

Burn permits can be acquired at logictreeit.page.link/8mz8SZXVj5rwcWoQ6

Residents should not call the 911 Dispatch Center or the sheriff’s office to inquire if outdoor burning is open. That information will be available at logictreeit.page.link/3a7anke6EDv6dtgR9

Burn permits are not required for warming or cooking fires less than four feet in diameter.

Mohn said people need to check the burn permit system on the day they want to burn.

“If open burning is closed, the system will not allow them to activate their permits on that day,” he said. “The rest of September is forecast to be warmer than average. If people don’t need to burn right now, it would be better to wait until October after we get some moisture.”

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