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BSSEF cancels fireworks sale in Big Sky

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PHOTO BY BRENT GORWIN

Forest Service, local counties institute fire restrictions

EBS STAFF

Editor’s Note: This story has been edited to include access to BSSEF’s fundraising efforts that are meant to support the lost funds following the cancelation of their fireworks sale.

BIG SKY – High winds, hot temperatures and drought have brewed an early fire season across the West including southwest Montana. Authorities are responding to an early fire season and abnormally dry conditions with the implementation of fire restrictions, which vary based on jurisdiction.

The Big Sky Fire Department has enacted a ban on open burning but does not have the authority to issue a ban on fireworks. In a June 23 interview, BSFD Deputy Fire Chief Dustin Tetrault told EBS that the department is encouraging concerned community members to write letters to the Gallatin County Commission, which ultimately determines fire restrictions in most Big Sky areas.

In the meantime, the department has met with the Arts Council of Big Sky, the entity which organizes public fireworks displays in Big Sky on the Fourth of July, to make recommendations for a public display this Independence Day.

“We’re going to strongly oppose fireworks this year due to accountability and burn levels,” Tetrault said. “It’s dry. One spark out of a firework can definitely start a fire, and between now and Fourth it’s not going to get any better.”

The Big Sky Ski Education Foundation, which normally sells fireworks from a stand at the junction of U.S. Highway 191 and Montana Highway 64 to raise program funds, announced on June 24 that it would not open the stand this year.

“We want to ensure the safety of our community this 4th of July and preserve the surrounding environment,” Jeremy Ueland, the program’s director, wrote in a press release. “We believe fireworks are a high-risk activity this season and hope that anyone who decides to use them does so safely, legally, and responsibly. We will be doing our part by not offering fireworks for sale this summer.”

Ueland added that the fireworks stand brings in crucial revenue for BSSEF each year–sales clocked in around $45,000 last year–and the program has launched an online fundraising campaign to make up for lost funds.

Below are area restrictions active as of June 24.

Custer Gallatin National Forest

The Custer Gallatin National Forest announced Stage 1 fire restrictions in a June 24 press release. The diverse Custer Gallatin, which spans 3 million acres of the state across seven ranger districts, has assigned unique restrictions to different parts of the forest. Fireworks and explosives are always prohibited on National Forest land.

Hebgen Lake, Bozeman, Yellowstone and Gardiner ranger districts

  • Stove fires, campfires and charcoal fires are allowed only at developed, designated recreation sites or Forest Service campgrounds where metal rings are provided. Fires within rock rings are not authorized.
  • Camp stoves fueled solely by liquid petroleum or LPG fuels may be used anywhere on National Forest System lands.
  • Smoking is allowed only within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least 3 feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.
  • No fires are allowed within designated or recommended Wilderness or Wilderness Study Area land.  
  • Forest Service outfitters and guides are allowed to have a fire in a stove with a properly installed and maintained spark arrester.

Beartooth, Ashland and Sioux ranger districts

  • No fires of any kind are allowed, even in developed sites and metal fire rings.
  • Smoking is allowed only within an enclosed vehicle or building.
  • No target shooting is allowed in the Sioux Ranger District.
  • No fires are allowed within designated or recommended Wilderness land.
  • Camp stoves fueled solely by liquid petroleum or LPG fuels may be used anywhere on National Forest System lands
  • Fires are not allowed at recreation residences, organizational camps or other developments under permit
  • Forest Service outfitters and guides are allowed to have a fire in a stove with a properly installed and maintained spark arrester.

Madison County

The Madison County Commission enacted a Stage 1 burn ban on June 22, but this ban does not include the Madison County portion of Big Sky. According to Joe Brummell, Madison County director of disaster and emergency services, the county leaves the decision to adopt restrictions up to Big Sky’s fire chief. The ban prohibits open burning, which is nonrecreational and requires a permit.

Brummell added that regarding fireworks, the county’s attorneys are looking into their legal authority to issue a firework ban, but no ban is currently in place on county land.

Gallatin County

Several fire districts within Gallatin County have issued a ban on open burning, similar to that imposed by Madison County, but no other restrictions are currently in place on county land.

According to Gallatin County Commissioner Scott MacFarlane, based on feedback from the county’s emergency management services, a firework ban is “probably unlikely,” though consideration of mirroring nearby counties’ open burn bans is “open for discussion.”

To donate to BSSEF in lieu of purchasing fireworks, visit bssef.com/product/donate/.

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