Montana's 2017 fire season tops 1 million acres burned - KRTV News in Great Falls, Montana

Montana's 2017 fire season tops 1 million acres burned

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(GREAT FALLS) The 2017 fire season in Montana has been devastating for many people and communities, and as of September 6th, more than one million acres of land has burned.

The figure comes from the Northern Rockies Coordination Center, which is part of the National Interagency Fire Center.

More than 4,000 firefighters have been involved in the battle against the fires this season; two of them lost their lives fighting fires in western Montana.

That is the third-largest acreage burned by wildfires in Montana in more than two decades.

The total number of wildfires so far this year is 1,687. Of those, 748 were lightning-sparked, and 939 were caused by people/vehicles. 

The number of acres burned by lightning-caused fires is 922,506; the acres burned by human-caused fires is 110,295.

This year, the total so far is 1,032,801 acres burned. That's not far behind the record year of 2012, when an estimated 1,220,646 acres burned. 2006 ranks as the second-worst year during that time period. 

The cost of fighting the fires has reached about $284 million so far in 2017; an estimated $53 million of that came directly from the state budget, and the rest from federal monies.


Many people have asked how they can help the firefighting efforts across Montana, or donate to help the people affected by the fires.

More than 4,000 firefighters have been involved in the battle against the fires this season; two of them lost their lives fighting fires in western Montana.

There are several ways that people can help.

The Montana chapter of the American Red Cross can be reached at 1-800-272-6668, or online by clicking here. You can also mail donations to the American Red Cross of Montana, 1300 28th Street South (3rd Floor), Great Falls, MT 59405.

Other ways that you can help:

  • 406 Family Aid Foundation: The 406 Family Aid Foundation, was started by a group of friends group that came together in an effort to help families in Western Montana.  They agreed on a name, and adopted the mission statement: “To aid persons and their families in Western Montana who are experiencing financial hardship caused by unforeseen illness, complications of a previous illness, loss in a family or natural disaster.”
  • Garfield County Fire Foundation Relief Fund: The GC Relief Fund is a subsidiary of the Central Montana Foundation. It has been created to help victims of the 2017 Lodgepole Complex fire. 
  • The Bear Paw Volunteer Fire Department has created a donation button on its Facebook page and says: "For those that wish to donate money, please click the blue "Donate" button on this page through PayPal. Donations can also be taken to Independence Bank, or to Ezzies for fuel. BPVFD thanks you for your generosity in this time of need." There are also donation drop sites at the Havre Fire Department (520 4th Street) at any time, and at HRDC (Monday through Friday 8am-5pm, 2229 5th Avenue).

Diane Wright, executive director of the Montana chapter of the American Red Cross,  wants people to know how to specifically donate money to the State's wildfire relief effort, and NOT to the general disaster fund, which could put their money toward Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

Wright says that best way to donate to the Montana Red Cross wildfire relief effort is by sending a check to the Great Falls headquarters, and writing "Montana Wildfires" in the memo line.

If people want to donate online...they must first select the local chapter that they want their money to go to, and then very shortly after call the Great Falls office to verbally request that their donation goes to Montana wildfire relief efforts. 

Wright said, “If you’d like for your money to stay here in Montana then you can select the option of a local chapter, and that money will stay here in Montana. If you want your money to be specifically used for Montana wildfires then we ask that you just call us and let us know, or if you’re sending in a check to our Great Falls location office, then you just write on your memo line 'Montana wildfire.'”

You can also contact your nearest municipal or volunteer fire department, as they are best able to determine what resources are needed in your area. 

NOTE: Some people have expressed concern about donating to the American Red Cross, and some have trotted out bogus or inaccurate examples of how the organization spends the money that it receives.

MONEY magazine advises giving to charities that spend no more than 20% of their revenue on overhead costs, which can be easily found on Charity Navigator. In the case of the American Red Cross, it spent 10.4% of its revenue on administrative costs and fundraising efforts in the fiscal year ending in June 2015, per Charity Navigator.

Some people worry that money donated to the Red Cross for fire relief will be used for other disasters, such as Hurricane Harvey. The American Red Cross says that they "honor donor intent, and if a donor designates their donation for a particular disaster, it goes to that disaster."

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