Billings has a greener landscape than usual for the week of Independence Day, thanks to recent showers and few hot days as of Monday. Wildfire risk is less extreme this year, but definitely possible. Because many of us will be firing or watching pyrotechnics over the next few days, words of caution are in order.
This morning, the Billings Fire Department will close off public land on the Rimrocks from Main Street, west through Swords Park, and south of Highway 3 up to and including Zimmerman Park. The Rims closure will remain in effect until Saturday morning, according to Fire Chief Bill Rash. Motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians are prohibited from the closed areas. Law enforcement and firefighters will patrol the area.
"We understand this is an inconvenience to our community, but please support our efforts in trying to prevent serious incidents that could affect citizens, homes and emergency responders," Rash said in a news release.
Billings city code bans the sale, possession and use of fireworks within the city limits.
Fireworks are permitted outside the city limits, but it's not OK to shoot fireworks on private property without the property owner's permission.
Fireworks also are prohibited in all Billings city parks, including Riverfront Park and Phipps Park. Fireworks are restricted from all federal and state public lands. That ban includes Montana DNRC land, state parks and fishing accesses, national parks, wildlife refuges, national monuments, national forests and Bureau of Land Management areas.
If you plan to have your own fireworks display, keep it on your property and have a garden hose or buckets of water on hand. The Montana DNRC reminds everyone to take care to prevent fires with any kind of sparks, including campfires and barbecues. The DNRC offers these fire safety tips:
- Never leave children unsupervised around any type of fire.
- Avoid starting any type of fire when conditions are dry or windy.
- Light fireworks one at a time and move away quickly after doing so.
- Be aware that the tip of a sparkler burns at a temperature of more than 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit and can ignite dry vegetation.
- After fireworks are done burning, douse them with water before placing in the trash.
- Observe fireworks restrictions.
Rash and other firefighting professionals recommend that fireworks fans attend a professional show. In Billings, Harvest Church is again hosting an Independence Day celebration on Thursday in Castle Rock Park in the Heights. The event ends with fireworks. On Friday night, a public fireworks show is scheduled for Stewart Park on Billings West End.
Another great Fourth of July tradition doesn't have a risk of fire or burn injuries. Fly the Stars and Stripes Thursday to show your pride these United States. Happy 243rd birthday, America!