Fire Season
2:50 pm
Wed July 31, 2013

Wildfire funding holding strong, but fire season is not over yet

Credit Sally Mauk

Montana’s State Forester Monday said the state’s wildfire suppression fund still has the vast majority of the funding provided to it by the 2013 Legislature.

"I think we're doing relatively well, certainly compared to last year," State Forester Bob Harrington said.

So far in 2013, the state is sitting at a little less than $2 million dollars in estimated fire costs, out of a wildfire suppression fund of about $20 million. 810 fires have been reported so far, burning 43,000 acres.

By comparison, Harrington said the state spent about $55 million on wildfires in 2012. It was a particularly extreme fire year, with more than 2,200 fires burning more than 170,000 acres. Major fire fighting efforts began in earnest in late June with fires such as the Corral Fire just outside Helena.

Even though wildfires have been relatively moderate so far this year, there is still a long way to go with this fire season—especially with extreme fire conditions in southwest and south central Montana.

"If you just pay attention to statistics the next two or three weeks are really going to be the driver on just the challenges that the fire service faces as well as ultimately what the costs are going to be," Harrington said.

He said, on average, about 50-percent of fire starts are caused by lightning and 50-percent are human-caused. Fire agencies are constantly working on public relations campaigns to try to lower that second half.

“(We) try to remind the public that no matter what they're doing, does it have the potential to start a fire?" Harrington said.