Spring and summer open burning season started at the beginning of March, but the Bitterroot Valley was covered by over a foot of snow then. Now, much of the low elevation snow has melted.

The smoke plumes began to be apparent Wednesday, March 12, as landowners took advantage of the weather change to get some burning done.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality reminded the public that only untreated wood and plant material are legal to burn and that people should check air quality requirements and notify authorities of the location and time of the burn before they start their project.

The valley's volunteer fire departments and the 911 dispatch center have noticed a huge increase in the number of such calls, and are lobbying the county commissioners for inclusion in a system that is being used elsewhere to cut down on the number of calls into the Emergency Dispatch Center.

Other items that should not be burned include: plastics, food waste, dead animals, rubber materials, asphalt shingles or chemicals.

The open burning season lasts until later in the summer when drier conditions and forest fire danger usually close it down.