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Montana Prescribed Burning Rules and Regulations

Fire can be a useful tool for producers, and it can improve forage quality for the first growing season following a fire to aid in reducing invasive species and improving range conditions. However, there are rules and regulations that must be followed when conducting a prescribed burn. In all prescribed burns, authorities should be contacted and weather conditions, such as relative humidity and wind speed, should be monitored closely. This article outlines the rules and regulations in Montana for prescribed burning.

Last Updated: 03/23
by By Caroline Kordes, Washburn University, School of Law, student; Amanda Williams, Fallon-Carter County MSU Extension; Megan Van Emon, MSU Extension Beef Cattle Specialist; Roger McEowen, Professor of Agricultural Law and Taxation, Washburn University, School of Law

In General and Open Burning Periods

Montana has detailed rules governing open burning, including agricultural burns. In addition, the rules and timing of burns can vary depending on location. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) operates a year-round open burning program and issues air quality open burning permits for specific types of open burning. The Montana Administrative Rules established by the Department of Environmental Quality contain the key rules governing open burns. In particular, ARM Title 17 Section 8, Subchapter 6, provides an in-depth description of open burning regulations.

Montana open burning periods are as follows:


  • Obtain a permit from the local county fire control authority at
  • On the day of the burn, activate the county permit.
  • Be aware of local conditions and burn smart.
    •  Check for good ventilation conditions before the burn.
    •  Be aware that permits can be restricted based on fire
      danger potential by the local fire authority.


During the fall season, burning is regulated by county in the Western Burn Zone.

  • Each day, county restrictions are posted on this website ( and are available through the Ventilation Hotline, 800-225-6779.
  • To burn:
    Obtain a permit from the local county fire control authority at
  • Check the morning of the burn or call the Ventilation Hotline at 800-225-6779 for any air quality restrictions the day of the burn.
    • If open burning is closed in the county, all burning is prohibited.*
    • If open burning is not restricted, be aware of local conditions and burn smart.


*Exceptions – County officials in the following counties MUST be contacted before igniting ANY burn:

    • Missoula City-County Health Dept.: 406-258-4755
    • Missoula Burn Hotline: 406-258-4900 or 888-583-6497
    • Northern Missoula Co. Hotline: 406-677-2899
    • Cascade: 406-454-6950
    • Yellowstone: 406-256-6841
    • Lincoln: 406-283-2444
    • Flathead: 406-751-8144


All burners MUST:

  • Obtain a permit from the local fire control authority at

All burners in the Western Zone MUST:

  • Complete a “Winter-Time Open Burning Request Form” from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and receive a Burn Identification Number (BIN)
  • Call 406-444-3490 the morning of the burn to obtain final approval. For weekend burns, please call before 4 p.m. on Friday.

Specific Counties and/or Impact Zones

Certain Montana counties and/or “impact zones” have their own open burning programs and must be contacted directly to receive the proper air quality open burning permit prior to burning.

If burning will take place in one of these counties, you must first contact the county before any burning takes place.

  • Cascade City-County Health Dept.: 406-454-6950
  • Flathead City-County Health Dept.: 406-751-8144
  • Lincoln County Health Dept.: 406-283-2443
  • Missoula City-County Health Dept.: 406-258-4755
    • Northern Missoula County Hotline: 406-677-2899
    • Missoula Burn Hotline: 406-258-4900
  • Yellowstone Air Pollution Control: 406-256-6841

Permits and regulations for:

Key Administrative Rule Definition

ARM TITLE 17 SECTION 8: 17.8.601

1. “Best Available Control Technology” (BACT) means those techniques and methods of controlling emission of pollutants from an existing or proposed open burning source which limit those emissions to the maximum degree which the department determines, on a case-by-case basis, is achievable for that source, taking into account impacts on energy use, the environment, and the economy, and any other costs, including cost to the source.
     (a) Such techniques and methods may include the following:
               (i) scheduling of burning during periods and seasons of good ventilation;
               (ii) applying dispersion forecasts;
               (iii) utilizing predictive modeling results performed by and available from the department to minimize smoke impacts;
               (iv) limiting the amount of burning to be performed during any one time;
               (v) using ignition and burning techniques which minimize smoke production;
               (vi) selecting fuel preparation methods that will minimize dirt and moisture content;
               (vii) promoting fuel configurations which create an adequate air to fuel ratio;
               (viii) prioritizing burns as to air quality impact and assigning control techniques accordingly;
               (ix) promoting alternative treatments and uses of materials to be burned; and
               (x) selecting sites that will minimize smoke impacts.

(b) For essential agricultural open burning, prescribed wildland open burning, conditional air quality open burning, commercial film production open burning, Christmas tree waste open burning, or any other minor open burning during September, October, or November, BACT includes burning only during the time periods specified by the department, which may be determined by calling the department at 800-225-6779.

(c) For essential agricultural open burning, prescribed wildland open burning, conditional air quality open burning, commercial film production open burning, Christmas tree waste open burning, or any other minor open burning during December, January, or February, BACT includes burning only during the time periods specified by the department, which may be determined by calling the department at 800-225-6779.

2. “Essential agricultural open burning” means any open burning conducted on a farm or ranch to:

     (a) eliminate excess vegetative matter from an irrigation ditch when no reasonable alternative method disposal is available;
     (b) eliminate excess vegetative matter from cultivated fields after harvest has been completed when no reasonable alternative method of disposal is available;
     (c) improve range conditions when no reasonable alternative method is available; or
     (d) improve wildlife habitat when no reasonable alternative method is available.

ARM TITLE 17 SECTION 8: 17.8.605


1. The following categories of open burning may be conducted during the entire year:
     (a) prescribed wildland open burning;
     (b) open burning to train firefighters;
     (c) open burning authorized under the emergency open burning permit provisions in ARM 17.8.611;
     (d) essential agricultural open burning;
     (e) conditional air quality open burning;
     (f) commercial film production open burning;
     (g) Christmas tree waste open burning; and
     (h) any minor open burning that is not prohibited by ARM 17.8.604 or that is allowed by ARM 17.8.606.


Montana open burning regulations are extensive as compared to many other states. That is a function of the arid nature of the climate and vast timber areas on federal lands in the state. When conducting an open burn of agricultural land, it is imperative to comply with state and local rules and to conduct the burn in accordance with those rules and conditions, and that the burn is conducted during the times permissible under applicable rules for the particular area.


Items Banned from Open Burning
  • Asbestos or asbestos-containing materials
  • Rubber materials
  • Trade wastes
  • Styrofoam and other plastics
  • Asphalt shingles
  • Hazardous wastes
  • Wastes generating noxious odors
  • Tar paper
  • Poultry litter
  • Automobile or aircraft bodies and interiors
  • Insulated wire
  • Chemicals
  • Any materials resulting from a salvage operation
  • Tires
  • Christmas tree waste* (see table, page 4)
  • Animal droppings
  • Food wastes
  • Paint
  • Dead animals or dead animal parts
  • Pathogenic wastes
  • Oil or petroleum products
  • Treated lumber and timbers
  • Any waste which is moved from the premises where it was generated
  • Wood and wood byproducts that have been coated, painted, stained, treated, or contaminated
  • Standing or demolished structures containing prohibited material


                                                                          Great Plains Fire Exchange Logo.                                                               Joint Fire Science logo.


Permit Type &
Season Fee Additional Information
Trade Waste March 1 – Nov. 30 $100 Any solid, liquid or gaseous material resulting from the
construction or operation of any business, trade, industry,
or demolition project. These permits may be issued for wood
or wood byproduct trade wastes generated by any business,
industry trade, or demolition project.
Landfill March 1 – Nov. 30 Collect from solid
waste management
system license
Entire Year $25 All training exercises held by any fire department
must have a permit.
Open Burning
Entire Year $100 Applicant must contact DEQ for further information before
burning. Note: Applicant must demonstrate that the
substance to be burned poses an immediate threat to the
public health and safety, or plant or animal life, and that no
immediate alternative for disposal is reasonably available.
*Christmas Tree
March 1 – Nov. 30 $100 For the disposal of Christmas Tree waste from
the producers of Christmas Trees.
Film Production
March 1 – Nov. 30 $100 For open burning conducted during
commercial film production.
Major Open
March 1 – Nov. 30 Greater of $350
and fee calculated
on previous years
Any source that has the potential to emit 500 tons per
calendar year of carbon monoxide or 50 tons per calendar
year of any other regulated pollutant. Note: DEQ (in
cooperation with several other counties), operates a Major
Open Burning Smoke Management Program. Please see the
Smoke Management Group website,
Winter Time
Open Burning
Dec. 1 – Feb. 28 No charge Permission for specific burns is approved in cases
where burning is considered essential.


Open Burning Permits, Official State Website: Montana Department of Environmental Quality,

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