Montana Politics

Montana Fires: The Good, The Bad and The Hopeful

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Montana is a resilient state, we are hardy people who stick together and look out for our neighbors. This last month of fires has tested our resolve, but we have shown we are committed to defending our homes and communities. We will get through this, together.

GOOD NEWS

Important progress was made over Labor Day weekend and several fires have been contained and are starting to be under control.

The Billings Gazette reported:

The Sartin Draw fire located 20 miles northeast of Ashland was at 85 percent containment Monday and cooler temperatures were expected to continue through Tuesday.

The East Fork fire south of Havre in the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation was at 21,500 acres Monday. The fire is 40 percent contained, and fire bosses said that good progress toward full containment is being made.

BAD NEWS

Senator Daines, Congressman Gianforte, and Secretary Zinke took a junket to the Lolo fire and used the enormous destruction and human suffering to call out their political opponents and attempted to politicize this statewide disaster. Gianforte, Daines and Zinke did not meet with Montanans over the August recess, they met with the press to further a debunked narrative and they disappeared.

Meanwhile:

Daines has not held a town hall with Montanans in 2017, yet has time for press conferences?

Gianforte possibly used a government plane to be dropped off for his criminal booking, fingerprinting and mugshot?

Zinke is posting photos about his fishing vacation rather than use the enormous responsibility he has been entrusted to help the people of Montana. One would think Montana would get some priority from this guy considering that he is planning on running for Governor in 2020.

HOPEFUL NEWS

More members of the National Guard are coming to assist firefighters who have been spread thin and working hard all over Montana. Governor Bullock ordered a second wave of National Guard members into fire training and they will be ready to hit the ground this week. 

Governor Bullock:

“Over the coming days, additional National Guard resources will be mobilized to continue to support the men and women fighting these fires. Our top priority remains firefighter safety and protecting Montanans and their property.”

Senator Tester secured critical life-saving resources from the FEMA to help fight the Lodgepole Complex Fire in eastern Montana. Tester has also launched an online portal to assist Montanans impacted by recent disasters and help determine what federal assistance they may be qualified to receive as a result of their losses.

The Billings Gazette reported:

Governor Bullock declared a state fire disaster. That declaration allows him to mobilize additional state resources and the Montana National Guard to combat fires. Bullock’s latest executive order was issued along with a directive to the Montana Department of Transportation that temporarily suspends certain regulatory requirements to facilitate the transport of heavy firefighting equipment. State officials remain in regular communication with the Federal Emergency Management Agency regarding possible assistance to support state and local firefighting costs for businesses and individuals impacted by fires.

“The reality is Montana is in a severe drought and the conditions are ripe for continued severe fires throughout September,” Bullock said. “This has been a long and incredibly difficult fire season and conditions this week will continue to be challenging. Everyone — residents, visitors, volunteers — must continue to stay safe, stay informed, and continue to support our firefighters, our communities and businesses impacted by fires.”

Resources to learn more about the fires in Montana through these links:

National Fire Situational Awareness Map

Bullock asks for Caution as more National Guard troops deploy

Montana Public Radio live fire updates

About the author

Nathan Kosted

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  • Now approaching one million acres-1,562 sq miles- of Managed Active Wildland Fire in MT.

    To date MT forest fire fighting costs average around $1,000/acre.

    I guesstimate direct and indirect costs to us people and environment at around $300 per acre of the 48,000 acre Lolo Peak Fire. 1200 forced evacuations. Fine smoke particles in nose and windpipe. Ultrafines in our blood. Silty waters for our fish. Barren slopes. Flood mitigation.
    Loss of merchantable timber also loss of high value recreation opportunities and resources.

    On 8/28 a Delegation of 2 USA Cabinet Officers and 2/3 of MT Congressmen flew in to the State with the largest Forest Fire Acreage to get briefed on, and see first hand the then largest forest fire in Montana. The Lolo Peak Fire. Started 7/15/17 with a 1:31 PM lightning strike. USFS accessed by road. Positioned near bottom of fire. But fire ran upslope.

    Only Missoula Current focused on the stated purpose of the delegation.
    Ag Secretary Perdue and DOI-BLM Secretary Ryan Zinke will continue to figure out how to change future “forest management” and count on that to reduce future Wildland Fire volumes.

    Please read that sentence again.

    Read the news reports and see for yourself.

    Did Ag Secretary Perdue say anything about drought in half of Montana. Terrible drought in far East Montana?

    Going forward, imo there’s an overriding purpose of the delegation. Mobilize the dominant political Party to support upcoming “forest management” legislation.

    From what I have gathered the delegation said nil about current volume of Wildland Fire in MT also USA.

    Nil about how all MT Wildland Forest Fire assets and resources are actively at work. And reality that the fires will burn until winter snow.

    About how most all USA Fire Fighting assets and personnel are maxed out on fires.

    Most importantly to us ordinary people the delegation said beans about our historical concern.

    Too late and too expensive attack on lightning caused Rice Ridge Fire.
    And the 2013 Lolo Peak Fire.

    Us common people watch how every day the night flames, and the day time smoke plumes indicate more timber burned. We go to Montana Inciweb maps of night flight infrared images of fire and hot spots. We watch the fire perimeter enlarge.

    On the red colored hot spot IR maps we saw how small lighting strike ignited tree clusters were at 2013 Lolo Creek Fire.

    And 2017 Rice Ridge Fire in thick, heavy timber. Rice Ridge that doubled in size day before yesterday to become the largest size forest fire in Montana.

    And we saw day by day how the Lolo Peak Fire expanded.

    Historical concern because the public criticized the too late too expensive response to the 2013 lightning strike small USFS suppressed fire that spread and blackened 15 square miles close to along and above the North side of Highway 12 in the ?olo Valley. Mostly DOI-BLM Land.

    Driving on Highway 12 the delegation could have seen that 8 mile long black burn.

    And the 2017, 48,000 acre Lolo Peak Fire close to the South side of Highway 12.

    But maybe all they could see was their political plan.

    Politically capitalize on the Lolo Peak Fire to gather more support for new “forest management” Legislation.

    Therefore, imo, not us but a PAC should pay for travel expenses for the delegation.

    More importantly. Four members of the minority party should travel here and see and get briefed by Fire Management and Fire Science people.

    Also by the public.

    Especially by Wildland Fire Fighters.

    Maybe taxpayers should pay travel expenses for such a delegation on condition the four share their conclusions with us people, the USFS, and DOI-BLM.

    Most importantly check around.

    Could be that the July lightning bolts were to unusually dry forests.

    Say unusually dry timber, understory growth, grasses and duff.

    Like up at high elevation near Lolo Peak.

    Up there. Out of sight. Out of mind.

    Just like the MT Legislation now continuing the “tax holliday” to newly producing oil wells for up to 18 months.

    Our big oil legislators do not want to deal with subjects associated with an already warmed climate here in Montana.

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