Don’t burn that slash pile quite yet.
Lewis and Clark County and the Helena National Forest have dropped their Stage 1 restrictions, which had limited campfires and smoking.
And although the county announced burning of debris would be allowed with a permit, conditions on the ground mean the county will not be activating those permits any time soon.
“The conditions are just not good enough to start allowing those yet,” said Bob Drake, chief of the Tri-Lakes Volunteer Fire Department, who spent much of Friday explaining the situation to people wanting to burn their debris. “We’re got to get widespread moisture.”
Although fire conditions have improved somewhat with cooler evening temperatures and a little humidity, the situation remains critical, he said.
The lifting of Stage 1 restrictions will, however, allow campfires in a wide range of areas, just in time for general deer and elk season, which starts Oct. 20 (with the two-day youth hunt for deer only on Oct. 18 and 19.) Under Stage 1 restrictions, campfires were limited to specific areas such as designated campsites with campfire rings.
Fire danger is lower in higher elevations where hunters are likely to camp and there’s even been a little snow.
But burning of slash piles in the Helena Valley, for example, will not be allowed until conditions change significantly, Drake said.
“Mother Nature’s the one in the driver’s seat here,” he said.
He said he understands the frustration of people with debris that’s been accumulating throughout the hot, dry summer.
The fire situation will not change right away, although the weather forecast looks great for weekend recreation.
The National Weather Service is predicting highs in the 60s today through Tuesday, with only a 20 to 30 percent chance of precipitation over the weekend.
Through next week, highs are still expected to stay in the 50s, with overnight lows in the 30s.
Despite the mild weather, the National Weather Service is trying to get people prepared for the winter, which it promises will come eventually.
Next week is Winter Weather Awareness Week in Montana, with the NWS highlighting various topics from Monday through Friday on radio, television and the Internet.
The topics include NWS watches, warnings and advisories; winter weather climatology; preparation for winter storms; safety for people caught in storms; and weather information resources.
Information on winter weather is at www.weather.gov/om/winter.