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

Burned Acres, Suppression Costs Fall For Fires On State Land

Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

State Forester Bob Harrington says Montana has had 347 wildfires on state land so far this year.  That’s about 30 percent more fires than a typical year, but the total area burned is less than half of the five-year average. 

Harrington told a legislative committee Thursday that state firefighters worked hard to knock down fires as soon as they were reported.

"All in all, for our agency and for our partners, local government, we are both the combination of very lucky with where the fires occurred, and a lot of good hard work on initial attack helped us catch those fires when they were small."

Putting out those fires has cost the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation a little over $10 million. Harrington says that’s a big saving over past years.

"Many of you are aware that are average fire suppression costs hover somewhere between $17 and $20 million a year. And so even by that measure, the good fortune that we had as well as the good hard work that we had from the air and from the ground really allowed us to minimize the financial cost to the state of Montana."

Harrington’s figures include only state land, not federal land, such as national forests, where the biggest fires have occurred this year. He spoke to the twenty-member Environmental Quality Council at the state capitol.

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