Counties adopt fire restrictions

2012-06-26T10:29:00Z 2012-06-27T02:00:31Z Counties adopt fire restrictionsBy CLAIR JOHNSON cjohnson@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Hot temperatures, dry conditions and strong winds prompted Yellowstone County commissioners on Tuesday to adopt Stage 1 burning restrictions.

Carbon, Sweet Grass and Musselshell counties also have imposed similar burning restrictions. Stage 1 restrictions in Treasure and Stillwater counties will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday.

On Tuesday, the National Weather Service issued a red-flag warning through midnight for the region because of low humidity, high temperatures and strong winds. A red flag warning means critical fire weather conditions exist or are expected.

The Yellowstone County restrictions do not affect fireworks, said Commission Chairman John Ostlund.

The consensus among rural fire chiefs and the disaster and emergency services director was that a ban would cause more problems than it would solve, Ostlund said.

Duane Winslow, director of Yellowstone County’s Disaster and Emergency Services, said that if fireworks were banned, rural firefighters would be “chasing complaints all across their districts instead of responding to fires. It’s a whole different ball of wax when you start banning fireworks.”

Winslow urged people to be “extremely careful.”

Stage 1 restrictions ban fires or campfires, except within designated areas, and smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area that is three feet in diameter and cleared of flammable material. Camp stoves fueled by liquid petroleum are allowed in cleared areas.

Agricultural burning is still allowed with a permit and with approval of the local fire department.

Going to Stage 1 restrictions in June is unusual for Yellowstone County. For the last four years, Stage 1 restrictions were not enacted until August. From 2005 until 2007, the restrictions were imposed in July.

Neither Stage 1 nor Stage 2 restrictions, which is a tighter level of restrictions, includes a fireworks ban, Winslow said. Prohibiting fireworks requires specific action by the commission, he said.

Carbon County commissioners imposed a fireworks ban along with Stage 1 restrictions.

Commission Chairman Doug Tucker said the fireworks ban applies to private and county-owned lands. The county does not have jurisdiction on federal Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service lands.

Firework displays put on by the city or organizations with fire protections are allowed, Tucker said.

“What we’re asking people is to please use extreme caution due to the high fire danger,” Tucker said.

Sweet Grass County Commissioner Bill Wallace said the commission on Tuesday adopted Stage 2 fire restrictions.

“With dry lightning and 50 mph winds, the fire chief said let’s do it,” he said.

Stage 2 in Sweet Grass County bans open burning except in established campground fire pits, allows firewood cutting only from 1 a.m. to 1 p.m. and bans smoking in the county unless in an enclosed vehicle or structure. No burning permits will be issued until further notice.

Musselshell adopted Stage 1 restrictions.

Billy Willems, Treasure County’s fire warden, said he has talked to the county commissioners and that the county will be adopting Stage 1 restrictions, effective at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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