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Fall Open Burning Season: October 1 - November 30

Burn permits are NOT required during open burning seasons. Burning is not allowed December, January, and February due to air quality concerns. 

Fall is the perfect time to clean up and burn natural yard debris around your home and property. Before lighting your fire, remember that most of the human-caused wildfires in Flathead and Lake Counties are started by escaped debris burns. Here are a few tips:
  • Air Quality Compliance is required. Check the ventilation & burning forecast:
  • Check the weather forecast and postpone burning if gusty or high winds are predicted.
  • Create a control line by scraping the area around your pile to mineral soil.
  • Have enough water, hand tools, & help on site to extinguish your fire if necessary.
  • Remember, you may be held financially responsible for the cost of suppressing escaped fires.

You can improve the defensible space around your home and prepare for next fire season by clearing brush & trimming lower limbs of trees. A few guidelines include:

  • Maintain a 3-5 foot non-combustible perimeter be removing any flammable vegetation that is in direct contact with your home.
  • Prune tree branches up 6 to 10 feet from the ground to remove "ladder fuels," or those fuels that allow a fire to climb from the ground into the tree canopy.
  • Remove any trees or prune any branches that are overhanging or touching your home.
  • Create 10 to 15 foot spacing between crowns (the widest part) of trees to reduce the chance of fire moving from tree to tree.

Burn Permits are only necessary and issued through this system in May & June each year. They are valid for the following areas:

Flathead County Rural Fire Districts = All Lake County Rural Fire Departments (Rollins, Swan Lake, Bigfork, Ferndale & Swan Valley Fire Service Area) outside the exterior boundaries of the Flathead Indian Reservation =All Flathead National Forest Ranger Districts = Glacier National Park = Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC)

Debris burning is not allowed within city limits of Kalispell, Whitefish, and Columbia Falls.

Cooperating Agencies:
 Montana DNRC
 Flathead National Forest
 Glacier National Park
 Flathead & Lake County Fire Chiefs & Emergency Svcs.
 Flathead County Environmental Health



Burn permits are required in Flathead and northern Lake Counties outside the Flathead Reservation between May 1 and June 30 each year. Burning is prohibited within city limits of Kalispell, Columbia Falls, and Whitefish. (See Kalispell City Ordinance 1197, or Whitefish City Ordinances 87-4 and 88-2)

Burn permits are FREE.

Your permit will last from the date issued through June 30. All fires must be completely out before July 1.

One permit per burn address location is required. For example, if you have 3 separate debris piles on your property, you only need one permit. And, if you burn 3 different days on the same property, you only need one permit. But, if you own 2 seperate properties with a debris pile on each, then you will need 2 permits. 

In addition to a burn permit, you are required by state law to comply with air quality regulations.

  • In Flathead County, check the ventilation and burning forecast before every burn by calling 751-8144 or at the Flathead City-County Air Quality website. Ventilation forecasts are updated weekdays by 8:40am and 5pm Friday for the weekend.
  • In Lake County, call 1-800-225-6779 when burning between September 1 - November 30.

Permits are available several different ways between May 1 and June 30:

  • Through this website. Click on the "Apply for Permit" button at the top of the homepage. You will need to print and sign your burn permit before it is valid.
  • Kalispell Unit of the DNRC, 655 Timberwolf Parkway
    • Phone: 751-2240  Hours: M-F 8-4:30
  • Swan Unit of the DNRC, 34925 Hwy 83, Swan Lake
    • Phone: 754-2301  Hours: M-F 8-4:30
  • Stillwater Unit of the DNRC, 7425 Hwy 93 N, Olney
    • Phone: 881-2371  Hours: M-F 8-5
  • Flathead County Environmental Health, 800 S Main, Kalispell
    • Phone: 751-8130  Hours: M-F 8-4:30
  • Bigfork Fire Department, 810 Grand Avenue, Bigfork
    • Phone: 837-4590 (Call to arrange a time)

Take advantage of open burning seasons when no permits are required:

  • In the fall between October 1 - November 30
  • In the spring between March 1 - April 30.

 Burning is not allowed:

  • December 1 through February 28 due to winter air quality concerns
  • July 1 through September 30 due to increased fire danger conditions


The Montana state forest fire season is from May 1st through September 30th each year. During this period, permits are required for open debris burning. ("Wildfire Season" Definition: 76-13-102 MCA, State Statute 76-13-121 MCA). To satisfy this requirement, burn permits are issued from May 1 to June 30. The Rural Fire Districts in Flathead County and some in Lake County (Rollins, Bigfork, and Ferndale), declare a moratorium on burning through the height of Montana's traditional fire season, from July 1 through September 30. This seasonal closure lasts through the fire season and may be extended as fire conditions dictate.

Only two types of debris burning are allowed in Montana:

1) Agricultural debris - This debris is created from farming, ranching, and gardening.

If possible, plow or dig a fire control line around the area to be burned and divide large fields into smaller plots to be burned one at a time. If you do not want to burn, your field or garden may benefit if you simply plow the dried plants and leaves under.

2) Wildland debris - This debris is created in two ways.

A. Natural accumulations of needles, grasses, leaves, shrubs, limbs, and trees. 
B. Unnatural accumulations of fuel resulting from management activities such as land clearing or timber harvesting.

Materials that are prohibited to burn include business waste, treated or painted wood or lumber, tar paper, tires, insulated wire, any salvage, oil products, styrofoam or plastics, food wastes, animal parts or waste, hazardous waste, noxious waste, and any man-made material. Trade Waste permits may be issued for wood or wood by-product trade wastes generated by any business, industry trade, or demolition project. Trade waste permits may be obtained by calling your local city-county health department. For more information, contact the appropriate agency:

In Flathead County call the Flathead City-County Health Department at 751-8130 or Click Here and scroll down.

In Lake County call the CSKT Division of Fire at 676-2550 or the MT DEQ at 444-4267

Escaped debris fires can threaten valuable resources, as well as lives and property. Follow the information provided under "Tips for burning" to reduce the risk of an escaped debris fire.

Remember, you are responsible for any and all suppression costs if your fire escapes your control! (State Statute 50-63-103 MCA)

Tips for Burning


  • Keep piles clean and free of dirt. Use brush blades on dozers when piling slash. When possible, use an excavator to pile.
  • Build small piles of yard debris so the fire will be hot, yet manageable. Wet or dirt-covered materials will cause fires to smolder and emit more smoke. Build debris piles in openings away from bodies of water, structures, or overhead branches and wires.
  • Piles can be covered with plastic or waterproof paper and anchored with additional slash. This practice will allow piles to be burned during periods of time when adjacent fuels are too wet to burn and control is not a problem or concern; remember to remove the plastic before igniting the piles.
  • Create a control line by scraping away debris and any other burnable materials several feet around the piles to be burned. The result should be bare soil around each pile. You may also use a hose to wet down the area around the pile.
  • Keep plenty of water and sufficient personnel, tools, and equipment ready in case of unexpected changes in fire behavior.
  • Light the fire only when you have an update on safe weather and safe burning conditions. (e.g. winds calm, weather cool)
  • When possible, make plans to re-pile debris as material is consumed. This will allow the fire to burn out as quickly as possible.
  • Stay with your fire. Be prepared to put your fire out if it becomes difficult to manage.

If you intend to burn, have in place:

  • A current weather forecast for your local area (NOAA, Weather Underground , The Weather Channel)
  • Water source (a charged hose, buckets, pond or lake...)
  • Fire tools (long-handled shovel, rake, hoe...) or equipment depending on the size of your burn
  • Enough help to repond in the event that fire behavior increases.

Do not burn when high or erratic winds are forecast or dry conditions prevail. Do not attempt to bury any burning material as fire can and will burn underground, sometimes for several months!


Burn barrels should not be used to burn garbage. If burn barrels are used, please burn only agricultural or wildland debris.


  • Making a compost pile out of small organic materials
  • Using thinning and logging debris for firewood
  • Tilling vegetative waste materials into the soil
  • Hauling debris to a landfill
  • Chipping logging debris and slash
  • Lopping and scattering logging debris
  • Machine crushing or trampling the logging debris.

Seasonal Schedule

Dec 1 - Feb 28

No burning due to air quality concerns

Mar 1 - Apr 30 Spring open burning season
  • No burn permit required
  • Air quality compliance required in Flathead County
     Call 751-8144 or click here for today's ventilation forecast
May 1 - June 30

Burning permits required

  • Air quality compliance required in Flathead County
  • Call 751-8144 or click here for today's Air Quality ventilation & burning forecast
July 1 - Sept 30 No burning due to increased fire danger
Oct 1 - Nov 30 Fall open burning season
  • No burn permit required
  • Air quality compliance required
    • In Flathead County, call 751-8144
    • In Lake County, call 1-800-225-6779



If no restrictions are in place, a permit is not needed for campfires measuring less than 48 inches in diameter.
  • A campfire must be constructed in an area free of flammable materials; check for overhanging branches.
  • Do not allow your campfire to spread beyond the established ring, pit, grate or container.
  • A shovel, or other fire tools, and a sufficient amount of water to extinguish the fire must be on site.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended, and make sure it is DEAD OUT before vacating the site.

During the summer, as wild fire danger increases, special fire restrictions may be established by an authority having jurisdiction. Restrictions prohibit building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire on public or private property.

CLICK HERE to see if wildland fire restrictions have been established in your area.