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As fire-related restrictions continue to be eased around southwest Montana, state officials are reminding people who burn openly to heed air quality rules.

Montanans can usually conduct minor burns year-round, unless local restrictions arise. But the Montana Department of Environmental Quality puts additional requirements in place during the fall to protect air quality.

People who want to burn yard waste between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30 should check DEQ’s ventilation hotline at 800-225-6779 to find out whether air quality restrictions are in place. That is in addition to securing the proper burn permits from local authorities.

Brandon McGuire, an air monitoring scientist with Montana DEQ, said meteorologists will mainly be looking at wildfire smoke when deciding where and when to restrict open burning this fall.

Another factor is ventilation, or how well pollutants in the air disperse. During the fall and winter months, shorter days and colder temperatures mean it’s easier for pollutants to get trapped in mountain valleys, he said.

People don’t need a permit from DEQ to burn openly in the fall, but they do in the winter, McGuire said. Regardless of the time of year, people must secure county-level permits, he said.

The air quality restrictions are based on factors like wildfire smoke, weather patterns and inversions, according to the state agency.

DEQ issued the reminder on Wednesday, just after the Gallatin County Commission lifted a burn ban that lasted more than a month in Gallatin County. Though the county’s emergency ordinance was rescinded, most fire districts still weren’t allowing open burning by Thursday.

The ban on open burning in Gallatin County went into effect in July, when southwest Montana faced persistent and widespread drought, dry fuels and strained firefighting resources.

Rainy weather in mid-August improved the situation, but the entire state was still under moderate to exceptional drought on Tuesday, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Gallatin, Madison and Beaverhead counties were facing severe to exceptional drought. All of Park County was under extreme drought.

Still, land management agencies have begun to ease fire restrictions across the region.

The Custer Gallatin National Forest on Wednesday lifted fire restrictions in all ranger districts other than the Sioux Ranger District in southeastern Montana and northwestern South Dakota.

The Bureau of Land Management on Wednesday also removed fire restrictions at all BLM-managed lands in Gallatin and Park Counties.

“Now that the weather has started to shift to lower temperatures, the agency felt conditions were favorable enough to lift its previous fire prevention order from July,” officials from BLM’s Butte Field Office wrote in a news release.

Stage 1 fire restrictions were still in effect across most of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Fire restrictions in the national forest were rescinded in the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness and Pintler Ranger District.

Stage 1 restrictions bar people from building campfires outside of permanent fire rings at developed sites and prohibit smoking outside of areas cleared of flammable material.

In Yellowstone National Park, fire danger on Thursday was rated as “high” and campfires were permitted only in designated fire rings in campgrounds and at some backcountry campsites.

Stage 2 fire restrictions barring all campfires were still present at fishing access sites and state parks across Gallatin County.

They were in place at the Axtell Bridge, Black’s Ford, Blackbird, Bozeman Pond, Bud Lilly, Cameron Bridge, Cherry River, Cobblestone, Drouillard, Erwin Bridge, Fairweather, Four Corners, Gallatin Forks, Greycliff, Kirk Wildlife Refuge, Milwaukee, Shed’s Bridge and Williams’ Bridge fishing access sites.

Stage 2 restrictions were also still in place at Madison Buffalo Jump and Missouri Headwaters state parks.

Lindsey Babcock, Butte BLM field manager, urged people in a news release to be mindful of their actions when on public land.

“We ask the public to be vigilant as fuel conditions are still dry and the wildfire threat remains,” she said.

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Helena Dore can be reached at or at 582-2628.

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