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Fall Open Burning Season: October 1 - November 30

Fall is the perfect time to clean up and burn natural yard debris around your home and property. When burning, remember that most of the human-caused wildfires in Flathead and Lake Counties are started by debris burning. Here are a few tips before you light your fire:
  • Check the weather forecast and postpone burning if gusty or high winds are predicted.
  • Check the ventilation & burning forecast:
  • Create a control line by scraping the area around your pile to mineral soil.
  • Have enough water, hand tools, & personnel available to extinguish your fire if necessary.
  • Remember that 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 6 to 15 feet from the ground to remove "ladder fuels," or those fuels that allow a fire to climb from the ground into the tree canopy.
  • Create 10 to 15 foot spacing between crowns of trees to reduce the chance of fire moving from tree to tree.

Burn Permits are issued through this system in May & June each year and 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 and 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 FREE and only required between May 1 and June 30 each year.

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

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
  • In Lake County, call 1-800-225-6779 when burning between September 1 - November 30.

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. 

Permits are available several different ways:

  • Through this website between May 1 and June 30.
  • By calling or stopping in at the Interagency Burn Permit Center/Kalispell DNRC office at 655 Timberwolf Pkwy
    Hours: M-F 8-4:30 Phone: 752-7376

  • Swan Lake Unit DNRC office located at 34925 Hwy 83, Swan Lake.
    Hours: M-F 7-5:30 Phone: 754-2301

  • Stillwater DNRC office located at 7425 Hwy 93 N, Olney. 
    Hours: M-F 8-4:30 Phone: 881-2371

  • Flathead County Environmental Health, located on the 2nd floor of the Earl Bennett Building.
    Hours: M-F 8-5 Phone: 751-8130

  • Bigfork Fire Department. Call 837-4590 to arrange a time.

Take advantage of open burning seasons when no permits are required: In the fall between October 1 - November 30, and in the spring between March 1 - April 30.

No burning is allowed from July 1 -  September 30 due to fire danger concerns.
No burning is allowed from December 1 - February 28 due to air quality concerns.


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. (Definition: 76-13-102 MCA, State Statute 76-13-121 MCA)

Only two types of debris burning are allowed in Montana:
  1. Agricultural debris: 
    This debris is created from farming, ranching, and gardening. If you intend to burn be sure you are fully prepared with a weather forecast, water source, fire tools, and help. 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.

Prohibited materials 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.

In Flathead County call the Flathead City-County Health Department at 751-8130 

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 & Conditions" 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)



  • Keep piles free of dirt. Use brush blades on dozers when piling slash. When possible, use an excavator to pile.
  • Put debris in small piles 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).
  • Create a control line. Scrape away debris and any other burnable materials several feet around the piles to be burned. The result should be bare soil around each 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 piles are consumed. This will allow the fire to be put out as quickly as possible.
  • Stay with your fire. Be prepared to put your fire out if it becomes difficult to manage.

As fire danger rises, your permit period can be limited or issuance revoked completely. You must obtain a burning permit when burning on public or private property.

Burning permits are not available within the Whitefish, Columbia Falls, and Kalispell city limits, where open burning is prohibited. (See Kalispell City Ordinance 1197, or Whitefish City Ordinances 87-4 and 88-2)

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.

Alternatives to burning include 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, or machine crushing or trampling the logging debris.

Seasonal Schedule

Dec 1 - Feb 28

No burning due to air quality concerns

Mar 1 - Apr 30 Open burning season
  • No burn permit required
  • Air quality compliance required in Flathead County
     Call 751-8144
May 1 - June 30

Burning permits required

  • Air quality compliance required in Flathead County
July 1 - Sept 30 No burning due to increased fire danger.
Oct 1 - Nov 30 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

In addition to the burning permit, you are required by law to comply with the State Air and Waste Management Bureau's "Open Burning Regulations". Additional local regulations may also apply.

The Rural Fire Districts (RFDs) in Flathead County and some in Lake County (Rollins, Bigfork, and Ferndale) declare a moratorium on burning during the height of Montana's traditional fire season, from July 1st through September 30th. The closure will last through the fire season or until further notice.

During the closure, in areas of overlapping jurisdiction, the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and the Forest Service refrain from issuing permits within the RFDs. This closure does not apply to lands protected solely by the Forest Service or Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.


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.

Helpful Info

Important Links: 

Flathead Air Quality Burning Restrictions/Ventilation Hotline: 
Debris Burning: 
Montana Open Burning Regulations: 
National Weather Service: 
Wildland Fire Restrictions:
Smokey Bear:

Contact Us: 

655 Timberwolf Pkwy, Suite 1 
Kalispell, MT 59901 
(406) 752-7376 

Flathead County: (406)751-8144 
Lake County: (800)225-6779