Strict Fire Restrictions Begin Saturday

With limited exemptions, all fires are prohibited in order to decrease potential ignition sources and prevent wildfires

By Micah Drew
A wildfire burns near Lone Pine State Park west of Kalispell on Oct. 9, 2018. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon.

Interagency fire managers agreed to implement stringent fire restrictions across Northwest Montana beginning this weekend to reduce the risk of wildfires.

Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on July 17, Stage I fire restrictions go into effect across the Flathead National Forest, Glacier National Park, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) Kalispell, Stillwater and Swan units, and Flathead County.

Stage I fire restrictions prohibit the building, maintaining, attending or use of a fire, campfire, or stove fire, and smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, developed recreation site or while stopped in an area with three feet clear of all flammable materials.

Exceptions include:

  • A fire solely fueled by liquid petroleum or LPG fuels that can be turned on and off, and can only be used in a barren area cleared of all overhead and surrounding flammable material within three feet
  • A stove fire with a spark arrestor within the boundaries of the Bob Marshall and Great Bear Wilderness areas.
  • Campfires in exempted developed recreation areas on the Flathead National Forest within metal or concrete fire rings

Stage II fire restrictions go into effect at 12:00 a.m. on July 16 across Lincoln County Lands, and at 12:01 a.m. July 17 across the Kootenai National Forest, Montana DNRC Libby Unit, and Sanders and Lake County.

Stage II restrictions prohibit:

  • Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire or stove fire.
  • Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, developed recreation site or while stopped in an area with three feet clear of all flammable materials.
  • Operating motorized vehicles off designated roads and trails.
  • Between 1:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. operating an internal combustion engine, welding or operating a torch with open flame and use of an explosive are also prohibited. Outside of these hours a one-hour foot patrol in the area is required. Lincoln County lands require a two-hour foot patrol.

In addition, the major private timber companies, Green Diamond Resource, Stimson Private Timber, F. H. Stoltze Land and Lumber and Southern Pine Plantations, are not allowing fires on their lands.

The restrictions are aimed to reduce wildfire risk during a period of high to extreme danger. Each year 70-80% of wildfires are human-caused, according to the Northern Rockies Coordination Group.

On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Gianforte issued an executive order declaring a statewide fire emergency in Montana as the state faces an early and aggressive fire season amid drought conditions.

As of July 14, nearly 1,400 wildland fires have burned more than 220 square miles of land in Montana. Officials estimate that more than three-quarters of them have been human caused.

The emergency declaration allows the governor to mobilize the Montana National Guard to assist in fire suppression efforts if needed, and share resources across state lines.