Gianforte issues statewide emergency for wildfire

Gov. Greg Gianforte issued an executive order declaring a statewide wildland fire emergency in Montana on July 14.

As of July 14, nearly 1,400 wildland fires have burned more than 141,000 acres in Montana and about 78 percent of those have been human caused, according to a release from Gianforte’s office.

Cascade County is expected to go to Stage 2 fire restrictions this week.

“Montana faces critical fire conditions that pose significant threats to our communities, infrastructure, first responders, and way of life,” Gov. Gianforte said. “As our firefighters battle active fires across the state with more to come, this executive order helps ensure they have the suppression resources, supplies, and fuel they need to safely and aggressively respond.”

Resources are also limited as private aerial firefighting companies are also short staffed, according to fire officials in the area. There’s also a lack of resources on the state and federal levels, they said.

“I’m urging all Montanans and visitors to our state to do their part. Follow local fire restrictions, prepare your homes and communities for wildfire, and recreate and work safely to ensure you’re not adding to our wildland firefighters’ workload by inadvertently starting a wildfire. Our dedicated, courageous first responders are depending on us all,” Gianforte said in a release.

Gianforte issued the order due to “extremely dry and dangerous wildfire conditions that exist across the state and to the national shortage of firefighting resources,” according to his office.

The order will help procure additional resources and tools for wildland firefighters, including the authorization for the governor to mobilize the Montana National Guard to assist in fire suppression efforts. The order also authorizes the governor to activate the federal Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which is a nationally adopted mutual aid agreement allowing states to share resources during emergencies or disasters.

The Divide Complex fires now have a Type 3 Incident Management Team from the Albuquerque Zone and a total of 160 personnel are assigned to the complex with four helicopters performing bucket drops.

The fire didn’t show significant growth thanks to the rain, but “the moisture was not able to penetrate into the thick subalpine fir in the continuous fuels north of the fire,” according to a post from the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. “Personnel focused on structure protection along Divide Road, Forest Service Road 839. There are two main spot fires of concern, one of which is approximately two acres, and another approximately 30 to 40 acres in size. Both are in remote areas. The newly arrived Midewin International Hotshots are focusing on mitigating these spot fires. Structure protection and assessment is taking place along the Highway 89 corridor and Belt Park Area.

The weather is expected to remain hot and dry in the fire area into early next week with humidity below 20 percent in the afternoon, according to the forest.

For more information:

Air Quality: https://svc.mt.gov/deq/todaysair/

Montana Wildland Fire Map: https://gis.dnrc.mt.gov/apps/firemap/

Restrictions and Closures: https://www.mtfireinfo.org/