MTPR

Montana Appeals FEMA's Denial Of Wildfire Disaster Funding

Jan 29, 2018

Montana is appealing FEMA’s denial of the state's request for a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration following last year’s historic fire season.

In late December, the federal government denied Governor Bullock’s initial request for help in covering some of the $44 million in firefighting costs billed to the state at the end of last summer summer when Montana’s own fire fund was almost drained.

The initial request was a long shot, according to state officials, because FEMA doesn’t tend to view a group of fires, or a fire season, as a single disaster.

But Delila Bruno, the administrator of Montana Disaster and Emergency Services, says the appeal Governor Bullock sent the Federal Emergency Management Agency Friday makes a stronger case.

“Its a case that ties the request to a severe weather event," Bruno says. "And that is something that is more in line with the types of requests that FEMA receives."

Montana’s appeal asks for help covering most of the nearly $15 million the state spent fighting fires in a shorter time window in early September. That’s a period of time that the letter calls the culminating days of the 2017 fire season, that lead to, "a single, interconnected major disaster."

Montana has already received about $11 million in FEMA grants to help pay for eight different fires last year. Those grants are unrelated to the money the state is asking for in this appeal.

Bruno says it could be at least a month before the state hears back from FEMA about the appeal.

In total, Montana paid out more than $70 million for firefighting last year. That added to the state’s budget crisis that resulted in a special legislative session in November.