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Missoula County fire officials are considering a June 11 cutoff - although it could be sooner - for general outdoor burning.

"Fire season is approaching and fire danger levels are rising," said Steve Holden, chairman of the Missoula County Fire Protection Association and fire manager for the state's southwestern land office in Missoula.

"If this hot weather continues as it has, permits for burning will soon be terminated for safety reasons," he said. "That means folks who've been planning on burning yard debris need to get their permits, or use the ones they've already gotten, soon."

Members of the fire association met last week and agreed on the June 11 cutoff for all parts of Missoula County except the Seeley-Swan area.

If the weather turns significantly cooler and wetter, the decision could change, Holden said. "But as it stands now, we'll probably be terminating the season for low-elevation burners in a couple weeks."

And, depending on the weather, the cutoff could come even sooner.

All outdoor burning in Missoula County is regulated by a telephone hot line (728-2667). The Seeley-Swan-Clearwater area operates under its own hot line (677-2899).

After receiving a burning permit from a local fire department, state Department of Natural Resources or Forest Service officer, residents must call the appropriate hot line after 9 a.m. for permission to burn on a specific day.

All burning must be done by 4 p.m. And there should be no burning on windy days, or after the wind begins to blow.

Holden said virtually every Missoula County fire agency has been called to an escaped debris burn this spring.

"Landowners can be billed for all of the suppression costs associated with these escaped burns, even though they may have a legal burning permit," he said. "If you are in any doubt regarding the possibility of a burn escaping control, ask us for assistance or don't burn at all."

For more information on burning permits or fire danger levels in Missoula County, call one of the local fire departments or check the fire protection association's Web site at www.mcfpa.org.

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