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Wildfire Roundup For July 15, 2017

Jul 15, 2017
Crews constructing line on the Rogers Mtn Fire
Inciweb

Update: 5:15 p.m., 07/15/17

In Lewis & Clark County west of Wolf Creek, homes have been evacuated on Lynx Trail Drive, Whispering Pines Road, North Lyons Creek Road. Anyone who has been evacuated may find shelter at the Wolf Creek School.

Jeff Mangan is Montana's new commissioner of political practices.
Corin Cates-Carney

The chair of Montana’s utility regulators violated state ethics during the 2016 election, according to a decision released today by Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices.

Some of the crews fighting the July fire on Friday morning
InciWeb

Update 4:15 PM:

New fires are cropping up and emergency officials are preparing for potentially dangerous fire weather over the weekend. About 2:00 this afternoon evacuations started east of Roundup due to a fire estimated at 2,000 acres that was discovered this morning.

The Red Cross has set up a shelter for evacuees in Roundup, it is unclear at this time how many people might be displaced.

Dancers at the Arlee  Esyapqeyni in June
Eric Whitney

Funding for a Native American language preservation program could get cut next month if revenues don’t increase as the state fiscal year comes to an end. 

The State-Tribal Relations Interim Committee was briefed by legislative staff Thursday that budget cuts will be triggered in mid-August.

Amy Carlson, a Legislative Fiscal Analyst, says state revenues have continued falling below projections since lawmakers passed the state budget in April.

Josh Burnham

Senator Jon Tester is ripping the new Senate health care bill, Senator Steve Daines says he needs more time to study it.

In a press release, Democrat Tester said, “This pig just got more lipstick, but still smells like a pigpen.” He said the bill will rip away coverage from thousands of Montanans, deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and impose a, quote, “age tax” on people in their 50s and 60s.

Interim Indian Health Service Director Rear Admiral Michael Weahkee
YouTube

Montana’s Democratic Senator Jon Tester wants to know how the Trump administration’s proposed 2018 federal budget will affect the Indian Health Service.

So, on Wednesday Tester turned to the troubled agency’s new acting director, Rear Admiral Michael Weahkee for answers.

It didn’t go well.

Weahkee could not explain how much money IHS is billing Medicaid to help keep the agency running.

Dustin White, the Chippewa-Cree tribal water director, says it is one of the worst water shortages he’s ever seen on the Rocky Boy's reservation.

“I’m at the mercy of the weather right now,” White says.

Within two weeks, as many as 3,000 people could run out of water as relentless hot temperatures, a drought and a failed water storage tank cause water supplies to fall to critically low levels near the town of Box Elder in north-central Montana. 

A member of the Flathead Hotshots walks the fire line at the edge of a prescribed burn near Lakeside this spring
Nicky Ouellet

Fire season arrived in Montana this month. As crew leaders set up command centers and assess the flames, they’re seeing the product of previous management decisions that have shaped the forest.

A firefighter was struck by a falling tree and killed while fighting fire in the Lolo National Forest Wednesday.
InciWeb

Updated 10:45 AM.

In Northwest Montana:

Weather conditions kept behavior of the Lazier Creek 3 Fire "moderate" yesterday, firefighters report. Today's estimate of the fire's size remaines at 1,145 acres, and 30 percent contained, the same as yesterday. There are 176 personnel assigned to the fire.

The fire is located south of Highway 2 and west of the Thompson River Road.

A Forest Service helicopter near Missoula, MT.
Lane Lamoreaux (PD)

The State of Montana’s fleet of firefighting helicopters remains unable to to fight some fires on federal land, and Wednesday a state legislative council asked for action. It’s been a years-long struggle.

(PD)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’ll have an updated health care bill ready Thursday for the legislative body to work on.

In a press call with reporters, Montana’s Democratic  Senator Jon Tester said he’s willing to work with Republicans on compromise health care legislation.

Rosendale Uncommitted On 2018 Senate Race

Jul 12, 2017
Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Matthew Rosendale.
Montana Legislature

Montana’s Republican commissioner of securities and insurance won't say he’s going to challenge Democrat Jon Tester for Montana’s Senate seat that's up for grabs in 2018 – but Matt Rosendale also isn’t saying he won't run.

On Monday the Washington, D.C. news source Roll Call reported that the GOP is, "waiting on Rosendale in Montana’s Senate Race."

Montana Law Enforcement Academy Administrator Glen stinar talks about the coursework for new cops, during a tour of the acadmemy campus in Helena, MT July 11, 2017.
Corin Cates-Carney

In the digital age of communication, the new generation of people becoming police officers need more training in how to communicate with the public. That’s according to leaders at Montana’s Law Enforcement Academy. They say having a conversation as a cop is different than what many new recruits are used to.

A map of the fires burning between Kalispell and Libby, updated July 12, 2017
InciWeb

Update 5 p.m. 07/12/17

Additional crews and fire engines have arrived to fight  five separate fires in the Highway 2 corridor.

Montana Law Enforement Academy
Corin Cates-Carney

Montana’s Law Enforcement Academy, which trains every new cop in the state, is getting an upgrade over the next few years. Lawmakers approved $6 million, despite the tight budget year, to begin remodels in the academy for new officers.

Montana Insurers Propose Rate Increases From 2 - 23 Percent
(PD)

Montana’s health insurance companies are asking for rate increases for 2018 ranging from 2 percent to 23 percent. Those numbers released today are much lower than the rate increases for last year, some of which topped 50 percent.

The proposed increases are only for the individual and small group markets. Most Montanans get their health coverage elsewhere, either through their jobs or government programs like Medicaid, Medicare and the Veterans Administration.

A heavy air tanker drops retardant on the July fire on Monday
InciWeb

Update 5 p.m. 07/11/17

Fire officials are now investigating whether a person is responsible for starting the big fire burning near Zortman.

"In order not to compromise the investigation, the BLM is not currently discussing the active investigation," says Pat Stocktt, who's with the Western Montana Incident Management Team.

July Fire file photo courtesy of InciWeb
InciWeb

Update: 6:30 p.m. 07/10/17

Tribal officials have increased the fire danger to “Extreme” on the west side of the Flathead Indian Reservation and “Very High” on the east side.

Fire managers for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes write in a press release that fine, dead fuels are drying out across the reservation. They add human behavior, such as tossing cigarette butts onto dry grass, leaving campfires unattended, lighting fireworks, burning debris and driving through dry grasses, has caused multiple grass fires across the Northern Rockies over the past week.

The KettleHouse Amphitheater sits along the bank of the Big Blackfoot River, just north of the new KettleHouse Brewing facility and the old lumber mill in Bonner, MT.
Josh Burnham

A new outdoor music venue is opening in Bonner, MT, just east of Missoula.

The KettleHouse Amphitheater, with its sleek integration of wood paneling and boulders, complements the scenic backdrop of the Blackfoot Valley. It’s located at the Bonner Mill Industrial Park, just north of the new KettleHouse Brewing facility and the old lumber mill along the banks of the Big Blackfoot River.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox in Missoula Monday
Eric Whitney

Montana’s backlogged sexual assault evidence kits will undergo lab testing beginning this month. Last fall, the state got a $2 million federal grant to fund cataloging and testing of the unsubmitted so-called rape kits. 

In Missoula Monday, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, left, joined Sen. Diane Sands, Gov. Steve Bullock and people who helped lawmakers update state sexual assault laws
Eric Whitney

Attorney General Tim Fox joined Governor Steve Bullock in Missoula today for a ceremony to sign six bills updating Montana’s sexual assault laws.

They posed with Missoula Democratic Senator Diane Sands, who carried two of the bills, the most prominent of which removes force from the definition of sexual assault.

This week, Republicans in Congress will try to rally votes behind a bill that proposes major changes to the way Americans get health care and how much they pay. In Montana, many tens of thousands could be affected. Use this Q&A to explore how the bill would affect you.

Cyclists admire the view atop Going to the Sun Road under a full moon Saturday night
Nicky Ouellet

On Saturday night, I did what every newcomer to the Flathead Valley does to prove that they’re a local: I tossed a bike in my trunk and set out for Glacier National Park to bike Going-to-the-Sun Road by the light of the full moon.

At about 9:30 pm I watched a shadow creep up the side of the continental divide on the side of Going To The Sun Road, and then hopped on my bike and joined the stream of bikers making the climb up the iconic road.

A file photo courtesy MT DNRC Fire
Montana DNRC

Lightning on Friday afternoon resulted in several fire starts across Northwest Montana, some of which were not detected until Sunday.

Montana's Department of Natural Resources and Conservation reports numerous fires scattered throughout the Pleasant Valley/Happy’s Inn/ACM/Fisher River area.

Last year's Copper King fire burned more than 27,000 acres outside Thompson Falls
Inciweb

This post will be updated as new information becomes available.

UPDATE 530 PM: Montana DNRC reports that the Rogers Mountain fire is "making a run," that winds are pushing it south and east toward Happy's Inn. The Lincoln County Sheriff's office says the sheriff is headed to the area now to assess whether a pre-evacuation notice should be issued. 

DNRC says that single engine air tankers are attacking the Rogers Mountain fire, and that a heavy air tanker has been ordered. 

UPDATE: 3:55 PM: 

inciweb

A mixed bag of news today from the July fire burning south of the Fort Belknap Reservation in Phillips County. 

Old Faithful Geyser
Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park took to Facebook today to tamp down ongoing speculation that a cataclysmic seismic event is imminent.

Roundup Of Fire Warnings, Restrictions

Jul 7, 2017
Firefighters near Zortman on July 5
InciWeb

Fire danger in northwest Montana forests has been moved to “high” ahead of a weekend forecasted to be hot and dry.

Managers on the Flathead and Kootenai National Forests are anticipating higher risk for fire starts as temperatures continue into the 90s and dead brush dries out. The “high” fire danger designation means fires can start easily from most causes.

John Goodnow is the CEO of Benefis Health System, Montana's second-largest, in Great Falls
Eric Whitney

The CEO of one of Montana's largest hospitals says Republicans are helping to create the instability that’s causing insurance companies to leave the federal health care exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act.

John Goodnow, CEO of Benefis Health System in Great Falls, said Republican talk about reducing subsidies that help people buy coverage is a, quote, "slick trick" to ensure the exchanges will fail.

USGS map showing the areas shaken by Thursday's earthquake.
USGS

From bar stools to bed frames, hundreds of Montanans felt the magnitude 5.8 earthquake early Thursday morning that originated a few miles southeast of Lincoln.

Listen to the audio to hear what the quake’s seismograph reading sounds like. Thanks to French geologist Anthony Lomax for tweeting this audio file, produced by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology.

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