Governor declares wildfire emergency
September 10, 2020
Governor Steve Bullock last week issued an executive order declaring a state of fire emergency due to extremely hazardous fire conditions throughout Montana. Above average temperatures, unpredictable winds, and low humidity are all factors that have resulted in these extreme fire conditions.
“Local, state, and federal partners, and the brave men and women on the front lines are working together to take on this fire season and we are prepared to use every resource available to protect Montana lives and property,” Gov. Bullock stated in a press release. “At the same time, I know that Montanans will continue to take this seriously and stay safe, stay informed, and continue to support our firefighters and our communities impacted by the fires.”
The press release states the hot and abnormally dry conditions are predicted to continue through the middle of September, and under current conditions, new wildland fire starts are likely throughout the state.
By issuing a State of Fire Emergency, the declaration now allows the Governor to mobilize additional state resources, as well as the Montana National Guard to combat the fires, “in order to protect life, health, and property, and to expend funds to meet the contingencies and needs that may arise from them,” the declaration states.
The order suspends hours of service regulations for commercial vehicle drivers who provide support to fire suppression activities. The order also suspends the temporary fuel permits that are normally required for vehicles who provide supplies to help support emergency responders. “Additionally, the emergency order suspends the brand inspection permit fee requirement and the brand inspection requirement prior to removal, as well as allows the Montana Department of Livestock to issue transportation permits by phone when necessary to cope with the emergency,” the press release said.
Gov. Bullock’s executive order comes in the midst of several fires that have started in Sanders County within the last week. The Plains/Thompson Falls Ranger District has continued to monitor several fires in the area.
The CSKT Division of Fire reported a new wildland fire that started on Sunday, 16 miles southwest of Dixon. The CSKT Division believes this to be human-caused and is under investigation. On Monday, the CSKT Division reported in their daily fire update, the Seepay Road Fire is now located 5 miles west of Perma and is burning at 200 acres. At this time, there are no structures that are threatened, and no evacuation notices have been given. There are currently 25 personnel assigned to this fire. To reduce the risk to the firefighters and public, D-1000 Road is closed. The light rain on Monday did help aid efforts in containment, which is currently at 60 percent.
Bullock doubled the state’s fire fund in August, reaching its statutory maximum of $101.5 million. The press release states this is enough to cover nearly five average wildfire seasons. As of August 30, state wildfire suppression costs are estimated to be at $4.5 million.