Stage II fire restrictions in force across Central Montana

By: 
DEB HILL
Managing Editor

At its Aug. 7 meeting, the Lewistown City Commission approved a resolution placing the City’s property under Stage II fire restrictions as of midnight that night, the latest in a series of such moves.

Since mid-July almost every land management agency or local government in Central Montana has entered Stage II restrictions, including the Bureau of Land Management Lewistown’s Field Office, the Northeastern Land Office of the Montana Department of Natural Resources, and Fergus, Musselshell, Yellowstone, Treasure, Wheatland, Choteau and Blaine counties.

According to the U.S. Fire Restrictions website, https://firerestrictions.us/mt/, within Fergus County only Forest Service lands and the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge lands are still under Stage I restrictions.

 

What Stage II restrictions include

Lewistown Fire Chief Keith Kucera said he is concerned people do not understand what is and is not allowed under Stage II restrictions.

“We are getting quite a few calls a day about this,” Kucera said.

According to the resolution passed by the City, the following actions are prohibited until further notice:

• Building, maintaining attending or using a campfire or other open flame recreational fire,

• Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, at a developed recreation site or in an area at least 3 feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials, and

• Operating motorized vehicles off designated roads and trails.

There are some exceptions allowed, but to claim an exemption a person must have a written permit issued by the Lewistown Fire Chief that specifically authorizes the act.

People using liquid petroleum fueled devices such as camping stoves may use them if they are in an area at least 3 feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all overhead and surrounding flammable materials.

Motor vehicles with sound, functional exhaust systems or spark arrestors are allowed on designated roads and trails.

Any piece of equipment powered by an internal combustion engine must be equipped with a spark detector to be allowed.

Within the City limits, and on outlying City property such as at East Fork reservoir, activities allowed under the exemption rules should be limited to the hours between 1 a.m. and 1 p.m. (otherwise known as “hoot owl” hours).

Chief Kucera noted under Montana law, anyone causing a wildland fire may be held financially liable for the costs of suppressing the fire and for damages.

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