Open Burning Begins Sunday


GCEM Media Release
Media Release:  200229-01
Contact:  Gallatin County Emergency Management (406) 548-0111

Open Burning Begins Sunday

Bozeman, MT – The 2020 open burning season in Gallatin County begins Sunday, March 1, 2020.  Individuals wishing to conduct open burning are currently able to purchase burn permits and activate them beginning Sunday.  All burning beyond recreational fires smaller than 48″ in diameter are required to have a burn permit that is activated each day burning is conducted.

Gallatin County migrated to a new burn permit system this year to make the process more user friendly for the community.  Unfortunately, those who have had burn permits in the past will not be able to simply renew their permit.  Being a new vendor for the burn permits, all individuals will need to create a new account this year, and in following years will only need to renew.

Burn permits are available online at and in person at:

  • Bozeman Fire Department, 34 North Rouse in Bozeman
  • Central Valley Fire District, 215 Wings Way in Belgrade
  • Gallatin County Treasurers Office, 311 West Main in Bozeman
  • Three Forks Library, 607 South Main in Three Forks

General information on conducting open burning is available at:


West Yellowstone Snowmobile Injury

(Gallatin County, Mont.) Rescuers with Gallatin County Sheriff’s Search & Rescue in West Yellowstone and Hebgen Basin Fire Department assisted a snowmobiler who was injured in an incident near West Yellowstone.

At around 11:00 am on Friday February 28, 2020, a 22-year-old woman from Uruguay crashed her snowmobile and sustained a back and hip injury while snowmobiling on the Big Sky trail system, about 14 miles north of West Yellowstone. She missed a corner, went down an embankment, and crashed into a group of trees.

The initial caller’s cell phone would not allow dispatchers to accurately triangulate the location based on the 911 call. Another snowmobiler happened onto the scene and was able to provide GPS coordinates which allowed rescuers to respond very quickly to the exact location (44.8150,   -111.1068.)

Emergency responders reached the scene of the accident on snowmobiles with a specialized snow ambulance. The woman was placed on a backboard and loaded into the snow ambulance, then transported off the trail system to an awaiting ambulance from the Hebgen Basin Fire Department.  She was then transported by ambulance to the Big Sky Medical Center for further evaluation.

Photo courtesy of Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office

Gallatin County Commission to Consider Putting 911, Search and Rescue Levies on June Ballot

At its March 3 public meeting, the Gallatin County Commission will consider asking voters to decide on two public safety levies to help improve services provided by both 911 and Search and Rescue.

The Commissioners will consider submitting two levies to the voters of Gallatin County on the June 2, 2020 primary election. Those levies would:

Increase funding to Gallatin County 911 by 6 mills, or approximately $2,117,022, to fund operations and capital expenditures related to 911 emergency communications dispatch and 911 criminal justice records functions. The estimated tax increase for a $200,000 home would be $16.20 annually.

Increase funding to Gallatin County Search and Rescue by 2 mills, or approximately $705,674, to support operations and capital expenditures. The estimated tax increase for a $200,000 home would be $5.40 annually.

These estimates are based on the FY2020 mill rate and are subject to change.

See the full draft ballot language the 911 levy and the Search and Rescue levy.

Citizens are encouraged to submit public comment on this topic by:

Attending the Tuesday, March 3 public meeting, which starts at 9 a.m. in the third floor Community Room at the Gallatin County Courthouse, located at 311 W. Main St. in downtown Bozeman.

Submitting written public comment by email at or by mailing it or dropping it off to the Commission Office: 311 W. Main St., room 306, Bozeman, MT 59715

Commission meetings are audio streamed live online, televised on channel 190, and recorded.

For questions, please contact Gallatin County Administrator Jim Doar at 406-582-3007.

Gallatin County Receives Grant to Help Improve Elections Security

Gallatin County Election Department
Press Release

The Gallatin County Election Department has received a $127,974 federal grant to help secure and improve election administration in our area.

The money comes from the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which was passed in 2002 to address systemic problems in America’s elections.

HAVA created the Election Assistance Commission, improved access for voters with disabilities, created state-managed voter registration databases, established identification and provisional voting requirements, and improved standards for voting systems.

This year, Congress has appropriated $425 million in new HAVA funds to continue working toward the goal of enhancing technology and making election security improvements.

Montana was allocated $3,127,978, and the Montana Secretary of State’s Office will provide a 20% state match. Of those funds, over $1.9 million in subgrants were given to Montana’s 56 counties.

With the money Gallatin County is receiving, the Election Department in conjunction with the Gallatin County IT Security Officer have identified some immediate needs for these funds in order to make security improvements for the 2020 election cycle.

Over the next five years, the Election Department will use these funds to enhance election technology, improve services to voters, and maintain the efficacy of elections in Gallatin County.

“We are very pleased with the award of the HAVA subgrant to Gallatin County. It is a significant boost to our ability to enhance election security and technology for the citizens of the County,” said Gallatin County Election Administrator Eric Semerad. “Some of the money will be used to address election security in this very significant presidential election year. The remainder will be used to purchase new election technology and provide for additional security in the future.”

In 2018, the Gallatin County Election Department was awarded a $22,939.87 HAVA grant that was used to help purchase a third high-speed ballot tabulator.

Media contact:
Eric Semerad, Gallatin County Election Administrator


Candlelight Memorial in West Yellowstone for James Alex Hurley

A candlelight memorial will be held at Pioneer Park in the Town of West Yellowstone on Sunday, February 23, 2020 at 5 p.m. in remembrance of 12-year-old James Alex Hurley. The general public is welcome and invited to attend.

The event will be in the paved parking lot for Pioneer Park located by the intersection of Firehole Avenue (U.S. Highway 20) and Dunraven Street. By landmarks, this is across from the Super Save Conoco.

The parking lot will be closed to vehicle traffic and parking beginning Saturday night in anticipation of the event.

Parking for the general public will be available along the sides of Dunraven Street, Canyon Street, and Gibbon Avenue.

The event is expected to take approximately 60 minutes. Blue glow sticks and ribbons for child abuse awareness will be available.

The speakers for the event are members of the West Yellowstone community who have been asked to speak. The focus of the event will be on the dignity of the child, community healing, and grief resolution. There will be no public comment during the event.

Whitney Bermes, Communications Coordinator for Gallatin County, will be acting as the Public Information Officer (PIO) for the event and will be available to the media to answer any questions.

Media planning to attend the event are requested to RSVP Whitney Bermes at There will be a designated area assigned for the media to view and record the event. The media is requested to be here 30 minutes prior to the event.

This is an outdoor event. The weather forecast is for snow showers increasing in the evening, a high of 32 degrees, and southwest winds 10 to 20 mph. Dress for winter.

Following the event, a gathering will take place at the Povah Center located at 10 South Geyser Street for hot chocolate and coffee. Counselors will be available to anyone who wishes to make use of their services or just simply want to talk.

Questions regarding the event can be directed to PIO Whitney Bermes at 406-595-8963.

Annual Gallatin County Spelling Bee to be held Feb. 22

This Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Museum of the Rockies, 50 students from area schools will gather to compete at the annual Gallatin County Spelling Bee. Officiated by local officials, the bee features the top spellers in grades 4-8 from more than 40 public and private schools in the county. The contest begins at 9 a.m. in the Hager Auditorium and the public is welcome to attend.

One of the oldest academic competitions in the area, the Gallatin County Spelling Bee is the semifinals for students hoping to compete at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Three contestants at the county will advance to the Treasure State Spelling Bee in March, and one winner of the state bee will compete at the national bee for $50,000 and other prizes.

The 2020 Gallatin County Spelling Bee is sponsored by Bozeman Bowl, Bozeman Amateur Hockey Association, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Bozeman Hot Springs, Dairy Queen, Edible Arrangements, MacKenzie River Pizza, and U-Swirl.

For more information, contact Gallatin County Superintendent of Schools Matthew Henry at (406) 582-3090 or by email at

Cardiac Arrest Rescue

(Gallatin County, Mont) On February 16, 2020, at 11:00 a.m., Gallatin County Dispatch received a call regarding a cardiac arrest. The caller was cross-country skiing on the groomed trails to the east of Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital when he came across a woman performing CPR on a man.

Members of the Bozeman Fire Department and Bozeman Police Department responded to the call and were able to walk to the subject’s location. The location was not accessible with an ambulance, so Gallatin County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue responded to the call. Multiple SAR members were at the SAR building and were able to respond immediately. SAR members used snowmobiles and a tracked four-wheeler pulling the ORION wagon to access the patient.

Despite the prompt deployment and response of SAR, medical, and law enforcement resources, the 66-year-old Belgrade man succumbed to a heart attack. Our condolences go out to the man’s family.


The deceased man is Steve Schwab, a retired teacher at Bozeman High School.

Open Burning Season Approaching

GCEM Media Release

Release:  200213-01
Contact:  Patrick Lonergan, (406) 548-0111

Open Burning Season Approaching

Bozeman, MT – Open burning in Gallatin County begins March 1st with the launch of a new online burn permit system.   Burn Permits will be available for activation beginning March 1st for those conducting non-recreational fires in accordance with the open burning regulations.  Gallatin County is also launching a new online burn permit system this year for purchase and management of permits.  Gallatin County transitioned vendors to a system that is more user friendly, verifies locations easier and provides agencies with the ability to communicate information better with those conducting open burning.  The new platform is intended to provide a quicker and cleaner experience for our community.

As Patrick Lonergan, Chief of Emergency Management and Fire explains, “The old burn permit system had become dated in its technology and no longer provided a positive experience for our community.  The new platform is modern technology that behaves like users expect and are used to from other platforms.  The only drawback is that previous burn permit holders will not be able to simply renew a permit this year and will have to answer a few additional questions to establish an account in the new system.”

Permits purchased through the Gallatin County Burn Permit System are valid for all local jurisdictions within Gallatin County.  Permits cost $15.00 and are valid for the 2020 open burning season which runs from March 1st to November 30th.  Permits can be utilized by the permit holder at multiple locations, but must be activated each day an open burn is conducted.

The Gallatin County Burn Permit System is located at

Additional information on open burning in Gallatin County is available at:


Three Arrested on Homicide Charges

(Gallatin County, Mont.) On Wednesday, February 12, 2020, the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office arrested James Sasser Jr., Patricia Batts, and a juvenile male (uncle of the victim) for the offense of Deliberate Homicide. The charges are in reference to the death of 12-year-old James Alex Hurley outside of West Yellowstone, Montana, on or about February 3, 2020. The defendants’ initial appearances in Justice Court will be on February 13th at 10:30 am. The investigation is ongoing and Sheriff Gootkin can only comment on the information covered in the Affidavit of Probable Cause, which is public information.

Sheriff Gootkin will be available to talk to reporters at noon on Thursday, February 13, at the Gallatin County Detention Center.

Photo of James Hurley courtesy of Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office.