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Fire Restrictions Made In An Effort To Prevent Human-Caused Wildfires

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Bureau of Land Management

Montana’s hot dry conditions are prompting counties to issue fire restrictions in an effort to prevent human caused wildfires

Nine out of 10 wildfires this year have been human caused, says Kristin Sleeper, Fire Information Officer with the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

"Every Montanan is impacted by these longer more severe wildfire seasons and fire restrictions are one of many tools we have available to prevent human caused wildfire," Sleeper says.

Dozens of counties as well as Crow Nation are issuing Stage 1 fire restrictions. These limit where to smoke, build fires and campfires and operate motorized vehicles off road and off trail.

Stage 1 restrictions do not ban fireworks although local officials and fire departments are urging residents not to light fireworks.

Yellowstone, Musselshell and Stillwater counties have taken the next step and issued the much tougher Stage 2. These restrictions prohibit campfires, greatly restrict smoking and ban the lighting of fireworks .

Yellowstone County Commission Chairman Don Jones says the commissioners looked at the dire conditions in the county when they voted to issue Stage 2.

"We have not seen conditions like this and so we made the tough decision to go to Stage 2 restrictions and you cannot do fireworks," Jones says.

Undersheriff Sam Bofto says Yellowstone County Sheriff’s deputies will enforce the restrictions, issuing citations under sections of Montana Code Annotated.

"This is a misdemeanor criminal offense they will be issued a NTA. This code is used fireworks don’t pose a danger to people or animals or property or that sort of thing," Bofto says.

As the danger from the fireworks increases so does the severity of the offense. If the fireworks start a fire that causes damage to structures or property...

"The individual would be charged with negligent arson."

Individuals could also be liable for restitution of property damage and the costs of firefighting.

Stage 2 restrictions do NOT ban the sale of fireworks or fireworks possession. They only ban the lighting of fireworks.

Professional public fireworks displays are also permitted during Stage 2 restrictions. But these public displays are put on by fireworks professionals who apply for permits 15 days in advance, have insurance, the OK of the local fire department, and have fire trucks on site.

Fire restrictions can and will change as the fire danger increases this summer.

To keep folks up to date, DNRC’s Kristin Sleeper says Montana wildfire protection agencies are launching a new website this week www.mtfireinfo.org to keep all Montanans and visitors updated on current fire restriction information.

Sleeper says this new website will host a geo-spacial map that depicts specific fire restrictions. She says you will be able to read proclamations and get a better sense of what is and is not allowed this fire season.

Kay Erickson has been working in broadcasting in Billings for more than 20 years. She spent well over a decade as news assignment editor at KTVQ-TV before joining the staff at YPR. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, with a degree in broadcast journalism. Shortly after graduation she worked in Great Falls where she was one of the first female sports anchor and reporter in Montana.