530 burn permits issued thus far by county staff

| April 17, 2020 8:39 AM

Burn season is underway in the Libby Air Pollution Control District, though weather conditions have not been particularly cooperative.

Jake Mertes, environmental health specialist with the Lincoln County Health Department, said officials have issued about 530 burn permits as of April 8. Burning was allowed in the air pollution control district beginning April 1.

But, owing to inclement weather, Mertes told the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners that he has had to restrict burning. There is the chance burn season could be extended, he said.

Mertes also said he has seen a jump in the number of people ignoring the regulations surrounding burning in the district.

“Most people are following the rules although there have been a lot of people who aren’t,” he told county commissioners.

Residents looking to participate in burn season are encouraged to call the county health department at 406-283-2442 to procure a permit. Those with permits are required to call the air quality hotline at 406-293-5644 prior to ignition.

State officials are asking those burning this year take extra precautions. Responding to fires could stretch emergency responders thin as they cope with the pandemic, said Logan Sandman, fire management officer for the Libby Unit of DNRC, in a statement.

Officials with DNRC said firefighters in Lincoln County responded to eight escaped debris burns in March.

Tips for burning include sticking to dry vegetation. Green branches, wet leaves and the like smolder and throw off a lot of smoke. Officials also advised building small, hot piles.

Other safety tips include clearing out a 10-foot radius around the pile and remove any overhanging growth. Residents are asked to keep tools and water easily available and to call 911 if a fire burns out of control.