Governor notes efforts to fight Montana fire and drought

Sunday, 10 Sep, 2017

The Eagle Creek Fire merged with the Indian Creek fire and had engulfed over 30,000 acres on the Washington-Oregon border and along the Columbia River.

As of Thursday, an estimated 1,005,803 acres have burned in Montana in 2017.

Meanwhile, the Missoula County sheriff's office downgraded a mandatory evacuation order for part of the western Montana town of Seeley Lake, which continues to deal with hazardous air quality due to nearby wildfires.

About 17 percent of all standing trees in 11 Western states are dead, roughly double the proportion in the 1990s, but that was a time of above-normal precipitation, Shaw said. In June, July, and August, I also declared statewide fire and drought emergencies to provide the resources needed for Montana, and the courageous men and women on the ground, to fight these fires.

What will it take to wake us up to the need to address climate change? Burned areas increase soil erosion rates within watersheds, which can increase sedimentation in downstream rivers and reservoirs.

Since 2000, two dozen species of beetles have killed trees on almost 85,000 square miles in the Western U.S. - an area about the size of Utah. "But climate change is making wildfires bigger", Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University tweeted earlier this week.

Summer lightning storms then dumped less rain than usual and weather conditions kept the humidity low, creating a natural tinderbox in many states. Montana had $35 million in its fire suppression fund this year. Gusty winds helped spread several, sending a layer of smoke and a downpour of ash onto Portland and Seattle.

Currently, more than 9,500 firefighters are battling 24 blazes across the state, some burning a couple thousand acres, others spanning tens of thousands of acres of wildland.

But the temperatures are expected to warm up over the rest of the week and fire officials say the fire season is far from over.

The fires which were burning in the neighbouring state of OR just across from the Columbia River Gorge have been raging for days, but this clearly didn't deter the golfers.

In instances where fires burn vast swaths of wildland, local fire departments call in other agencies for assistance. Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency last week, calling this "one of the worst fire seasons" in the state's history.

"I think we're going to be in the top three [worst fire seasons] when it's all said and done", Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest Supervisor Bill Avey told the Great Falls Tribune. Firefighters are instead focused on protecting homes and communities from the blazes.