Burn Permit FAQs
Why do we issue permits?
- To limit the amount of time volunteers spend responding to non-emergency calls and instead allowing them to focus on true emergencies
- To prevent the unneeded response of fire departments with active lights and sirens that put them at greater risk for potential accidents.
- To limit the number of calls placed to the emergency dispatch and other emergency personnel which reserve their efforts for true emergencies.
- To track the locations of all approved burns in Cascade County so emergency personnel can more easily determine whether a smoke plume/fire is an emergency such as a wildfire or structural fire. By tracking approved burns, the fire department may not have to be dispatched each time smoke/fire is reported.
Why are we changing the way burn permits are issued?
- To handle the sheer volume of burn activity in Cascade County. With over thousands of permits issued each year and the potential for hundreds of activations in a single day, emergency personnel simply cannot handle such volume of non-emergency calls without interfering with true emergency traffic.
- To prevent delays for burn permit holders looking to activate a permit.
- To utilize technology to make the process of issuing permits, activating permits and tracking burn locations more efficient and cost effective for Cascade County.
- To provide the emergency personnel with more tools to assist when determining if a report of smoke/fire is a controlled burn or a true emergency.
- To allow Cascade County residents the ability to obtain and activate burn permits 24 hours per day, 7 days per week on approved burn days.
Why is there a cost now for my burn permit?
- To assist with education efforts to inform the citizens of Cascade County of burn permit requirements and recommendations.
- To alleviate the costs associated with development of new tools and technology to help identify a controlled burn versus a true emergency.
How do I obtain a burn permit?
- Beginning April 4th, online at www.BurnPermits.mt.gov; electronic checks and credit/debit cards are accepted.
- Beginning April 4th, by visiting the Clerk and Recorder's Office Monday through Friday, 7am to 5pm; cash, check, or credit/debit cards are accepted.
- Beginning April 4th, by visiting the Cascade County Disaster and Emergency Services Office Monday through Friday, 8am to noon and 1pm to 5pm; cash, check, or credit/debit cards are accepted.
How do I activate my burn permit?
- Online at www.BurnPermits.mt.gov; click on "activate an existing burn permit," enter your burn permit number and follow the remaining steps.
- By calling our automated phone system at 1-855-693-BURN (2876).
- Please note, when activating a burn permit, it is only active for a single day. Should you wish to burn for consecutive days, you must reactivate your permit for each day you intend to burn.
- When entering a start and stop time for your burn, it is important to be as accurate as possible to avoid potential deployment of fire department personnel.
What responsibilities am I assuming when I light my burn?
- You must have enough water, hand tools/equipment, and people to keep your fire under control.
- If you do not activate your permit before burning, the Fire Department may respond to your fire even though it is under control because dispatch is unaware it is a controlled burn.
- If the fire escapes your control, you may be cited and fined, as well as having to pay the cost of suppression and any damages caused to someone else's property.
- If your smoke fails to adequately disperse, you could face penalties for violating state air pollution regulations.
What are the possible fines?
- If a person burns without having a permit or for violating rules of a permit they do have, such as failing to activate it as required, violations can be charged under several laws.
- MCA 7-33-2205 & 2206 deal with teh fire seasons and permit requirements. Violations under those codes are a misdemeanor with fines possible up to $500 and/or 6 months in jail. Average fines are approximately $285.
- If a person burns in a manner that is unsafe, damages property belonging to another, or places anyone in danger of injury or death, the Arson laws apply. Negligent arson, MCA 45-6-102, can be either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances. Misdemeanor charges can cost up to $500 and/or up to 6 months in jail. Felony charges can cost up to $50,000 and/or up to 10 years in prison.
- In all cases, restitution can be ordered separately from the criminal fine. Restitution may include, but are not limited to, paying damages to other property owners and paying for the firefighting resources.
When can I legally burn?
- The 2011 burn season begins January 1st and ends December 31st. Burn Permits will be available starting April 4th via the website and cannot be obtained before this date.
- Due to weather or other applicable conditions, burning may be closed on any given day. If burning is closed, you are prohibited from burning in Cascade County and the website and automated phone system will prevent you from activating your permit.
- NOTE - From October 1st to November 30th, you are also required to check the air quality for your area prior to burning. You may do so by calling the Ventilation Hotline at (406) 444-3490 or 800-225-6779 on the weekends.
Where can I legally burn?
- Cascade County - burning is allowed on private grounds
- City of Great Falls - No burning is allowed within the City of Great Falls
- Belt - No burning within the town of Belt
- Cascade - No burning allowed within the town of Cascade unless approved by the Town Council
- Neihart - burning is allowed with county permit
Who can I call if I still have questions?
- Clerk and Recorder's Office 454-6801
- Cascade County DES 454-6900
- Roy Stock, Dearborn Fire Chief 468-4028
The Clerk and Recorder's Office is open from 7:00am to 5:00pm, Monday through Friday.
For more information, please visit www.BurnPermits.mt.gov.