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Wildfire, fire management and air quality news for western Montana and the Northern Rockies.

Montana Officials Talk Drought, Streamflows, Wildfire Preparations

Montana officials are prepared for a worse-than-average fire season, after a light snowpack and an unusually warm June have left much of the state in, or near, a state of drought. The Governor's Drought and Water Supply Advisory Committee Wednesday heard reports from about a dozen experts from different agencies around the state.

Lucas Zukiewicz with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Bozeman says water levels in the Flathead basin are already well below average.

"We did peak well below normal, we actually left normal about mid-February, so we peaked below normal and we melted out early."

Others told the committee river flows in parts of the state are about average for now, mainly because the warm June temperatures caused the state’s thin snowpack to melt quickly.

Montana Direct Protection Fire Coordinator Harold Gemmell says crews and equipment have been strategically positioned throughout the state, allowing the first wave of wildfires to be handled quickly.

"That’s been our success story up to this point this year is that, with the resources that we have here, pre-positioned, that we’ve been able to jump on any starts up there and get them taken care of right away."

The meeting came just one day after the U.S. Agriculture Secretary declared 24 Montana Counties to be in a state of drought.

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