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Gianforte praises heroic efforts of firefighters, calls for continued vigilance this fall

GianforteDainesFirefighters.jpg
DainesFirefighters.jpg
Posted at 8:30 AM, Aug 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-26 10:30:18-04

MISSOULA  — Governor Greg Gianforte is praising the hard work of firefighters and the collaborative efforts of Montana communities in battling the worst fire season in nearly five years. And the governor and U.S. Senator Steve Daines are renewing calls for better forest management.

Gianforte made those comments Wednesday as he was joined by Daines at a news conference with firefighters, leaders of the Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation, municipal and rural fire departments, and the U.S. Forest Service in Missoula.

Gianforte noted the severity of this season, which began with record-setting heat and a lack of rainfall weeks sooner than expected. And both he and Daines, as well as the agency leaders, repeatedly touched on the danger of this intense season that's led to serious injuries.

"These tragic incidents are a reminder that firefighting is dangerous, noble work," Gianforte said in prepared remarks. "Our firefighters deserve our utmost respect and appreciation and they deserve our support and efforts to prevent wildland fire starts."

In addition to the collaboration, there was praise for Montana National Guard training more than 500 personnel for frontline fire duty, and thanks to other regions of the country for sending help as Montana resources were stretched thin.

"I cannot understate just how important this surge of capacity has been," DNRC Director Amanda Kaster said. "Together we have worked to provide safe and effective fire response during a historically dry summer."

But beyond fighting fires, both Daines and Gianforte say more needs to be done for active forest management.

"We can reduce the impact of wildfires. We can improve wildlife habitat. We can protect watersheds and, importantly, can provide work for loggers on our sawmills," Daines said, repeating a theme he's espoused for several years. "And I think earlier this spring there are many who wished we had more lumber coming out of our sawmills when we saw the price spike."

And while we've been enjoying cooler temps and bit of rain, Gianforte says it's no time to get our guard down: "Please secure your trailer chains, maintain your equipment and prepare your properties for a wildfire. Also, always be prepared by having an evacuation plan if a wildfire is burning nearby."

Since January 1, there have been 2,040 fire starts in Montana, which have collectively burned about 826,000 acres.

According to the MTFireInfo.org website, these are the largest of the currently active fires (as of August 24):

  • Richard Spring: 171,130 Acres; 100% Contained
  • Woods Creek: 55,921 Acres; 54% Contained
  • Trail Creek: 39,196 Acres; 26% Contained
  • West Lolo Complex: 39,053 Acres; 80% Contained
  • Thorne Creek: 38,688 Acres; 80% Contained
  • Harris Mountain: 31,603 Acres; 82% Contained
  • Robertson Draw: 29,885 Acres; 90% Contained
  • American Fork: 21,876 Acres; 58% Contained
  • Pine Grove: 16,004 Acres; 98% Contained
  • Alder Creek: 14,056 Acres; 15% Contained
  • South Yaak: 12,522 Acres; 62% Contained
  • Christensen: 11,089 Acres; 15% Contained