The open burning season closed at the end of November, and those caught involved in illegal outdoor burning could face stiff penalties.

Air Quality Specialist with the Missoula City County Health Department, Sarah Coefield, said outdoor burning at this time of year could do damage to the area's air quality.

"Outdoor burning is closed until March 1st, and the reason behind that is because during the winter months it's really hard to get good burning windows," Coefield said. "The days are so short and the sun's angle is so low that your smoke isn't going to go anywhere. So, if you're burning, the smoke is just going to settle in and smoke out your neighbors and cause an air quality problem. Any outdoor burning in December, January and February would be in violation of the air quality regulations."

Coefield said the penalties for illegal outdoor burning could be very expensive.

"We typically start out with a warning," she said. "If it's a repeat violation it could escalate into an official notice of violation and an attorney referral, and the fines can go up to $10,000 per day. That's why we recommend that people pay attention to the open burning rules during the winter months."


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