HELENA — The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has placed fire restrictions on the North Hills area, including prohibiting motorized vehicles, due to record-breaking heat and dry fuel conditions.
In a release, BLM said the conditions are keeping firefighters nervously eyeing the horizon for smoke plumes and the North Hills are particularly vulnerable to the smallest spark.
The following activities are prohibited under the Fire Prevention Order signed by Butte Field Manager Lindsey Babcock this week:
- Building maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire.
- Smoking, except while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.
- Operating motorized vehicles
The North Hills order specifically closes Township 12 North, Range 2 West, Sections 19 and 30; and Township 12 North, Range 3 West, Sections 13, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 34, & 35; and the BLM Access Road leading north into the area from Snowdrift Road in Township 11 North, Range 3 West, Section 3.
The North Hills remain open to walk-in access. Visitors should park their vehicles in an area free of combustible material and avoid blocking the gate. The restrictions begin at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, June 18.
In 2019 a fire ripped through 5,000 acres at the BLM North Hills Access site. The fire was caused by an individual illegally shooting exploding targets.
Flames and smoke have already been reported in the North Hills, even at the start of this year’s wildfire season.
“Our fire protection partners have already responded to over a dozen human-caused wildfires in the North Hills this year,” Babcock said. “With fuel conditions rapidly changing, we can’t afford to see a fire explode like the Deep Creek fire near Townsend did earlier this week. These fire restrictions will protect both our natural resources and our neighbors.”
As a reminder, she added, the following activities are prohibited on all BLM-managed lands year-round:
- Discharging, using, or possessing any combustible or explosive composition or any substance or combination of substances or article prepared for the purpose of producing a visible or audible effect by combustion, explosion, deflagration, or detonation, including but not limited to, any pyrotechnics, fireworks, or exploding targets;
- Discarding any item that is smoldering or has open flame attached to it, including, but not limited to, smoking materials, cigarettes, luminaries, wish lanterns, or any unmanned balloons using fire underneath for propulsion;
- Burning or causing to burn any wire, magnesium, or any other hazardous materials; and
- Operating any internal combustion engine without a properly installed spark arrester as described in Title 43, CFR § 8343.1.
For more information, call the Butte Field Office at (406) 533-7600.