Montana News

News from the state of Montana.

A helicopter on initial attack on the Burke Gulch fire this week, one of 40 lightning-caused wildfires crews have contained since Aug. 10.
Courtesy Cory Rennaker Bitterroot Helitack

Governor Steve Bullock sent a letter to the U.S. Forest Service today saying he’s frustrated that Montana’s fleet of firefighting helicopters often can’t be used to attack fires on federal land.

Plum Creek Timber's Columbia Falls fiberboard plant
Katrin Frye

No lives were lost, no one was injured and no one will be laid off. That from Plum Creek Timber Company officials in response to yesterday's small explosion and fire at its medium-density fiberboard plant in Columbia Falls.

The BlueSky Daily Runs animated map predicts the location of wildfire smoke.
U.S. Forest Service

Wondering where you can go to get away from the smoke? This animated map from the Forest Service predicts where smoke from wildfires will be concentrated.

3 fires burning near Noxon have prompted evacuations orders along Highway 56, and filled the air with smoke.
Courtesy Geri Lee

Near the Montana - Idaho state line in Sanders County today, an additional 30 to 40 homes north of Noxon have been evacuated, a day after fire officials told residents in about 14 other homes to leave.

Wind and very low humidity have caused several fires burning in the Kootenai National Forest to spread, prompting concerns that they may combine, that’s according to fire information officer John Head.

In preparation for possible evacuation in Essex, Larry and Callie Epstein say they packed only what they couldn’t replace into their 12 foot trailer.
Corin Cates-Carney

MTPR reporter Corin Cates-Carney is in Essex. He says the smoke is so thick there that it’s setting off smoke detectors inside some houses.

The fire threatening the Essex area just south of Glacier National Park grew today, and caused the closure of a 7-mile section of U.S. Highway 2 north of Essex, as well as the adjacent BNSF railroad tracks.

Three fires are burning near Noxon, MT, prompting evacuations and filling the air with smoke.
Courtesy Geri Lee

In Sanders County, the evacuation area has been increased for fires burning in the Bull River Valley near Noxon.

Tom Rummel, the Sheriff in Sanders county says the evacuation area now includes Highway 56 between mile marker 2.7 and mile-marker 8, and the East Fork of the Bull River is evacuated starting at 8 mile. Rummel says the expanded evacuation order was issued about 1:30 p.m.

Highway 2 and the BNSF railway have been closed near Essex, MT, between mile markers 178 and 185; Bear Creek to the Halfway Motel. According to the Flathead Office of Emergency Services, the nearby Sheep Fire is sending embers onto the road. The town of Essex has not been ordered to evacuate at this time.

MTPR has a reporter standing by in Essex, stay tuned for more updates as the situation unfolds.

Find more Montana wildfire news here.

A proposed ballot initiative would require electricity suppliers to obtain at least 20 percent of retail sales from renewable energy such as wind, solar, geothermal or hydroelectric sources by 2020.

Montana officials are reviewing a proposal that aims to put global warming mitigation to a statewide vote in 2016.

John Soderberg today submitted a ballot initiative to curb climate change by reducing the amount of CO2 released when generating electricity.

Billings Crowd Urges Approval Of Montana Medicaid Expansion Waivers

Aug 19, 2015
Tuesday's meeting in Billings on Montana's Medicaid expansion waivers drew about 80 people.
Jackie Yamanaka - Yellowstone Public Radio

Nearly 80 people turned out for a public meeting in Billings Tuesday afternoon on the state of Montana’s proposed waiver request for its Medicaid expansion program.

As Jackie Yamanaka reports, all of the two dozen people who offered comments want the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to approve Montana’s two waivers.

Residents of Essex and surrounding communities are advised to prepare for possible evacuation as the Sheep Fire burns a couple miles south of town.
Jonathan Moor/Inciweb

Some residents near Noxon have been ordered to evacuate due to wildfire, and an evacuation warning is in effect for Essex.

Missoula City-County Health Department

Wildfire smoke was almost bearable in some western Montana communities yesterday, but that's about to change.

The Missoula City-County Health Department says winds that have kept the smoke at bay for the past 24 hours or so are expected to shift to the west today. That could blow lots more smoke to the east.

In other words, there's a massive amount of smoke just over the mountains in Idaho and it's headed into Montana. That means air quality is going to quickly deteriorate. 

MDT: Safer Roads Require Drivers To Reject High-Risk Behavior

Aug 19, 2015
The Vision Zero Initiative Vision Zero Initiative is aimed at preventing traffic accidents and deaths in dense traffic corridors.
Josh Burnham (CC-BY-2)

Montana transportation officials say they are taking steps to make the state’s highways safer. MDT Director Mike Tooley says there’s a role for motorists to improve highway safety. As Jackie Yamanaka reports, that means drivers need to reject high-risk behavior.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 18, 2015

Aug 18, 2015
The Bear Creek Fire burning along Spotted Bear River Road, August 14, 2015.

A roundup of the biggest fires burning in western Montana August 18, 2015.

Stage 2 Fire restrictions go into effect across northwestern Montana Thursday at 1:00 a.m.
Josh Burnham

Greater restrictions on burning will go into effect later this week as fire danger increases in Northwest Montana. The Stage 2 fire restrictions will go into effect all across northwest Montana at 1:00 a.m. Thursday.

Gov. Steve Bullock speaks about the benefits of the Montana University System Research Initiative, Tuesday, August 18, 2015 on the UM campus.
Edward O'Brien

Two University of Montana programs will share over $3.5 million in state research funds. UM's traumatic brain injury and water quality monitoring programs are among the first to benefit from the "Montana University System Research Initiative". That's a $15 million program that passed out of the last session of the Montana legislature.

Greg Gianforte at his home in Bozeman
Eric Whitney

Bozeman software entrepreneur Greg Gianforte Monday filed paperwork to establish an exploratory committee that could lead to running for Governor. An exploratory committee filing allows a candidate to begin raising money to fund a campaign. MTPR News Director Eric Whitney sat down with Gianforte Tuesday for this interview.

Greg Gianforte filed papers today paving the way for a Montana Gubernatorial run.
Rowebotz (CC-BY-SA-4.0)

Montana businessman Greg Gianforte Monday filed paperwork to establish an exploratory committee that could lead to running for Governor.   An exploratory committee filing allows a candidate to begin raising money to fund a campaign.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 17, 2015

Aug 17, 2015
The Marston Fire Lookout on the Kootenai National Forest was wrapped up as a precaution against encroaching flames.

So many wildfires are burning across Montana that Governor Bullock has declared a fire emergency, and the Montana National Guard has been tapped to join the firefighting efforts. Here's a roundup of some of the largest fires burning in western Montana today.

Montana air quality map.
Montana DNRC

Generally hazy and smoky conditions with only temporary relief could be with us for quite some time given all the wildfires burning in Washington, Idaho and Montana.

The state of Montana's air quality meteorologist, Kristen Martin explains what those air quality ratings mean, and how air quality is measured.

Smoke from the Marston Fire, buring in Lincoln County.

Several dozen Montana National Guard members are getting ready to join the statewide firefighting effort - and they could soon be joined by active-duty troops. Governor Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency on Sunday, allowing state resources including the National Guard to be mobilized.

Courtesy Photo

NOTE: This post has been edited on 8/19 to clarify information about disenrollment from Medicaid related to not engaging in work or job training programs. 

Montana is holding public meetings this week to get input on its Medicaid expansion plans.

As the state prepares to ask the federal government to accept its version of Medicaid expansion, one critic of the proposal wants to make sure the state is telling the whole story.

Steve Jess

Montana Democrats re-elected their party leadership and heard pep talks about the coming election at their party convention over the weekend in Bozeman. 

Governor Declares Fire Emergency In Montana

Aug 16, 2015

Citing active wildfires and extreme fire danger across the state, Governor Steve Bullock has issued an executive order declaring a fire emergency in Montana. “Montana is facing extreme fire conditions. This declaration will provide additional resources to the brave men and women fighting these fires,” Bullock said of the declaration. 

A night-time view of the Soda Fire 40 miles SW of Boise, ID.

Even more fires have broken out across the border in the Panhandle National Forest in Idaho. Jason Kirschner, public information officer for the Panhandle in Couer d’Alene, talks about the nearly 50 fires burning in Idaho.

22 new fires have started in the Flathead National Forest Since August 11, 2015.
Josh Burnham

Since August 11, there have been 22 new fire starts in the Flathead National Forest. At present there are no road or trail closures and no structures are threatened. Of the 22 fires, four are declared out.

The largest fires are the Addition Creek, Late Creek and Bear Creek fires - currently at 135 acres on the Spotted Bear Ranger District.

Two orphaned Yellowstone grizzly cubs will be going to the Toledo Zoo.
Flickr user Carl Berger (CC-BY-NC-2.0)

The two cubs of a Montana grizzly bear that killed a hiker in Yellowstone National Park are going to an Ohio zoo.

Morning Newscast 08-14-15

Aug 14, 2015
MTPR Morning Newscast
Josh Burnham

On today's morning newscast: Yellowstone National Park officials euthanized a female grizzly bear today yesterday after DNA tests confirmed it attacked and killed a hiker last week. Park spokeswoman Amy Bartlett says the grizzly bear was killed because it had eaten part of the Montana man's body and hid the rest, suggesting that it was not just defending its young.

A northwest Ohio zoo, meanwhile, will take the two cubs of that bear that was killed yesterday. Toledo's The Blade newspaper reports the Toledo Zoo already was planning a brown bear exhibit and agreed to take the female cubs.

A fire north of Lincoln in the Helena National Forest has burned about a square mile and prompted evacuations, but no homes are immediately threatened.

Armed 'Oath Keepers' Celebrate Montana Miners' Incremental Victory

Aug 14, 2015
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The Scotty Brown Fire, seen on August 11, 2015.

A Type-II incident management team has taken over command on the Thompson Fire burning in Glacier National Park about 15 miles east of the the West Glacier entrance. The fire started August 9, and has already burned an estimated 14,900 acres as of Thursday morning. The Thompson fire is 0 percent contained at this time.

Sen. Tester: Iran Agreement A Step In The Right Direction

Aug 13, 2015

Senator Jon Tester announced Wednesday he will support the Iran nuclear agreement when it comes before lawmakers. He says he came to that decision after personally reading the proposed agreement, talking with experts, and listening to Montanans.