Firewood gathering on the Bitterroot National Forest is opening this week on all districts, according to Tod McKay.

The areas are along Silverthorne Loop on the Stevensville Ranger District, along Railroad Creek on the Darby district, along Andrews Creek and Tolan Ridge in the Sula district and on Thunder Mountain Road up the West Fork District. Woodcutters are advised to consult the maps they will get when they apply for a firewood permit before cutting.

The temporary opening of public firewood gathering areas starts Wednesday, July 15, and will be open until August 15, unless more severe fire danger restrictions are instituted.

The current Stage 1 fire restrictions don't allow campfires outside of established Forest Service campgrounds, but McKay said firewood cutters are asked to voluntarily use "hoot owl" restrictions, which usually come with Stage 2 restrictions.

Those rules include:

  • Stop gas-powered woodcutting operations between 1 p.m. and 1 a.m.
  • Do not park, drive through or turn around vehicles in tall grass.
  • Do not let safety chains or mufflers on the vehicle drag, causing sparks.
  • Also, woodcutters need to have a spark arrester on the chain saw and must carry a shovel, bucket and fire extinguisher at all times.

    Firewood permits are available at any Bitterroot National Forest office during regular business hours. They are $5 per cord with a four-cord minimum ($20). The permit can be filled between now and March 31, 2016 (unless strict fire restrictions are imposed).