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

DNRC reports 1,600 wildfires in Montana this year

Montana DNRC helicopter used to fight wildfires.
Corin Cates-Carney
Montana DNRC helicopter used to fight wildfires.

Wildfires are now a year-round threat in Montana, but peak wildfire season is now behind us.

According to the latest data from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, 1,600 total fires scorched over 117,000 acres – about a six percent drop from last year. Almost a quarter of those fires were lightning-caused. The rest were either human-caused or investigators could not determine how they started.

DNRC says 96 percent of wildland fires on state and private land were kept to 10 acres or less this year. DNRC’s Forestry and Trust Lands Division credits aggressive initial attack for that impressive record.

The agency tells MTPR funding provided by the Legislature earlier this year allowed DNRC to procure additional firefighting assets. Those included additional aviation resources and a couple of Type 2 Initial attack hand crews. Those resources were positioned in areas of high to extreme fire potential and enabled firefighters to suppress new fires before they grew out of control.

Favorable conditions in central and eastern Montana also played a pivotal role in this relatively mild fire season, allowing for more concentrated resource deployment in drought-stricken northwestern Montana.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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