Governor Greg Gianforte and Senator Steve Daines were in Missoula on Wednesday to honor wildland firefighters from the DNRC, U.S. Forest Service and the Montana National Guard as they provided an update on the long, hot fire season.

“As we meet today, our heroic firefighters are confronting at 50 active fires throughout the state of Montana,” said Gianforte. “This year alone, Montana has seen nearly 2100 fires burn more than 825,000 acres. That's the largest area burns since 2017.”

Gianforte related his recent experience with a major wildfire in eastern Montana near Lame Deer.

“I was in the Lame Deer last week on the Richard Springs and Lame Deer fires,” he said. “And to hear the tribal council tell the story, this fire burned 100,000 acres in a single day. In total, it burned over 170,000 acres. The power poles were down and power was lost in Lame Deer. The cell tower was gone. There was no communication with the outside world. All of the residents had been evacuated. The only people left were the tribal council and the emergency response folks there in Lame Deer. As they watched the orange glow come up over the hill they had a bus in the parking lot with the engine running waiting to evacuate and abandon the town. Thankfully the wind shifted and the town was saved.”

Senator Daines explained how he has attempted to work with the Biden Administration to increase forest management to reduce the risk of wildfires, but has met opposition from the Biden Administration.

“The Forest Service has been clear and they stated we need to increase the treatment acreage by two to five times versus where we're at today,” said Daines. “The Biden Administration actually moved to decrease our timber harvest targets in Region One. Montana is expected to fall short of our timber harvest goal, largely due to one or two extreme environmental groups that are blocking agreed to timber projects.”

Daines said he is working with California Senator Diane Feinstein on ways to reduce frivolous lawsuits that block forest management efforts.

DNRC Forestry Division Administrator Sonya Germann said the long 2021 fire season is far from over.

“There's a lot of wildlife wildfire season left,” said Germann. “The National Interagency Fire Center is forecasting above normal fire potential for much of Montana throughout October. So given this forecast, it's more important than ever to recognize that while we can't control the weather, we can control our actions, and thank you, governor for your consistent fire prevention messaging. We really appreciate your leadership in so many areas, including that one.”

Gianforte, Daines and Germann all agreed that the majority of wildfires in Montana are human caused, and public education efforts must be increased to reduce that number.

 

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