Beginning Jan. 1, Yellowstone County residents will be able to get open-burning permits online.
The new service will give residents the convenience of being able to get a burning permit anytime, not just during business hours, said Duane Winslow, the county’s disaster and emergency services coordinator.
In addition, the service will provide information to help emergency responders and fire departments determine faster whether there is a wildfire or whether someone is burning a ditch, he said.
Yellowstone County commissioners on Tuesday approved the online program, which was developed by Montana Interactive, a private company, working with the state Department of Administration.
The service will cost $16,000 annually, and applicants will be charged $8 for the annual burn permit. The fee pays for the costs and does not generate revenue, Winslow said.
Applicants will be able to get an open-burning permit online at www.burnpermits.mt.gov. When a person wants to activate the permit, he can go online and provide information on the intended day and time for burning. The information will automatically appear on an online map for dispatchers, Winslow said.
Currently, county residents get open-burning permits by calling or emailing RiverStone Health’s air quality program. To activate the permit, a person is required to call dispatch or the local fire department to advise them they will be burning.
The online system will divert numerous activation calls from dispatchers and fire departments, Winslow said.
If someone reports a fire or smoke, the dispatcher can check the map and see if a burning permit has been activated before sending out a fire truck, Winslow said. With the current system, a dispatcher has to go back and see if anyone called in to activate a permit.
“Realistically, what happens is a dispatcher will send a fire truck,” he said.
The county also can use the system to advise applicants when open burning is not allowed because of fire restrictions or weather conditions, Winslow said.