Burning Indoors and Out

The use of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces in the Lewis and Clark County Air Pollution Control District is governed by the county outdoor air-quality regulations.

The health department monitors air quality all year, but winter is when poor air-quality conditions are most likely to occur. This happens when layers of warm air cause inversions that trap smoke, vehicle exhaust, and other pollutants in the Helena Valley.

When air quality is poor, burning is restricted in the Air Pollution Control District to protect the health of area residents. Restrictions are determined by taking an 8-hour average of the concentration of fine-particulate pollution and looking at air-dispersion forecasts provided by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

Air Quality Designations

Air Quality

Particulate Level

Weather ForecastBurning Status
GOOD0-21 ug/m3Good air dispersion and favorable weather conditionsWood burning allowed
21-28 ug/m3Good air dispersion predicted for next 24 hoursResidents asked to voluntarily stop or reduce burning
POOR28-35 ug/m3Poor air dispersion or stagnant air, inversions predicted

Only pellet and EPA-certified stoves may be used


The health department enforces burning restrictions by observing emissions from chimneys, noting the address, and mailing out a notice of violation. Violators are subject to criminal fines as follows:

  • 1st violation in a calendar year: Warning
  • 2nd violation: $100 fine
  • 3rd violation: $250 fine
  • Additional violations: $500

Outdoor Burning

If you plan to burn yard waste or slash, you must first get a burn permit. You can pick up a permit at the Lewis and Clark County Clerk and Recorder's Office, Room 113, City-County Building, 316 North Park, Helena.

Outdoor burning is regulated by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. If you have questions, the department operates a hotline at 1-800-225-6779.