Montana News

Thursday, September 21, 2017

2017 Fire Season Is Montana’s Most Expensive Since 1999

Both state and federal governments have spent a combined $378 million this year battling blazes. This was the most expensive fire season in Montana since at least 1999, when adjusted for inflation. Montanans may need to prepare for similar wildfire seasons in the future. The financial figures from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation do not take into account fires that are less than 100 acres in size, and reliable data only goes back to 1999. "We had one of the most active fire seasons we’ve ever had because we had a very warm and dry summer. The period from June to August 2017 was the hottest and driest June to August period that we had on record," says DNRC Fire Information Officer Angela Wells.
KUFM-FM Montana Public Radio

New radios bring better coverage for Bozeman Fire, Police departments

The Bozeman Police and Fire Departments now have the capacity to provide better coverage to their rapidly-growing service area with new radios, worth an estimated $1.5 million, according to Sgt. Travis Munter. "It's more important now than ever," Munter said. "We could be within 100 yards of another officer and we weren't able to communicate with them out on the west end." Munter told NBC Montana the city has outgrown the department's radio capacity. He said as Bozeman's population grows, more buildings crop up, which caused more interference and static over the old radios, making it harder for officers to communicate with each other and the 911 dispatch center.
NBC Montana

Remembering those lost fighting a devastating Montana fire season

It’s easy to add up what we lost this summer: Trees, rangeland, homes and clean air. Fire took all that away and then some. But let us not forget what was really lost, two firefighters who paid the ultimate price to keep us safe, one working on just the second wildfire of his career, the other an elite, experienced Hotshot with a family legacy of firefighting. Both would die in Montana, killed by falling trees while fighting fire. 19-year-old Trenton Johnson recently graduated from Hellgate High School in Missoula where he was a member of the state champion Lacross team. He enrolled as MSU where he was going to be an engineer. Trenton was quirky and smart. "He had an awesome sense of humor. Witty," said Trenton's sister DJ Johnson. "He'd be three steps ahead of the conversation and he's come up with just snappy, witty statements."
KPAX-TV 8 Missoula

Seeley Lake kids craft special ’thank you’ for firefighters

Kids at Seeley Lake Elementary want to say thank you to firefighters who've worked for weeks on end at the nearby Rice Ridge Fire. They're painting "kindness rocks" to give to the firefighters to show their appreciation and support. Seeley Lake Elementary Art teacher Sharon Teague got the idea from an online movement called the Kindness Rocks Project. The idea is for people to paint inspirational messages and art on rocks and leave them in public places for others to find. The goal is to inspire others to spread kindness. Now kids from kindergarten through eighth grade are finishing their works of art. There will be more than 200 rocks to hand out when they're all done. They'll bring some to the fire camp and mail the rest to crews that have already left.

More than 300 guardsmen remain on fires

Despite the recent rain across Montana we remain in a state of disaster. Just last week more than 500 guardsmen were helping to battle fires but now roughly 200 have been sent home. These men and women could be activated again at a moment’s notice. The guardsmen that do remain out on the fires are helping in a variety of ways... whether it's acting as security, helping to train fire fighters, mopping up, or even assisting in radio communications. Captain Ryan Finnegan with Montana National Guard says should they get called up again they could respond much quicker. “The training the airmen went through is good for quite a while so if there is another call up, those folks are already trained and we'd be able to get them out the door a little faster” says Capt. Finnegan.

Malmstrom EOD team responds to abandoned mining site near Neihart

“Fire in the hole, fire in the hole, fire in the hole.” These words were yelled before an explosion as Malmstrom explosive ordnance disposal Airmen watch their detonation from a distance. Recently EOD received a call for support to detonate possible explosive, oxidizing, and unsafe chemicals found in a laboratory of an abandoned mining site. A project manager for the Carpenter-Snow Creek National Priorities List Superfund Site found chemicals in the chemical assay laboratory at the former mine site and requested assistance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA’s emergency response teams worked to safely containerize the chemicals and transport them to an appropriate disposal facility.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Rains help containment grow on Western Montana wildfires

Western Montana’s fires have been once again been getting doused with heavy rain, with this latest round of storms expected to formally end Montana’s volatile 2017 fire season. The fire camp at the Rice Ridge fire near Seeley Lake was pounded with heavy rain on Monday as crews moved to protect equipment and supplies. And on the fire lines, crews were recovering hoses and sprinklers before freezing weather moves in. The good news is, the cooler and wetter conditions of the past week have been a godsend for the weary fire crews. Not only is the fire hazard easing, but even at Rice Ridge, firefighters are claiming over 60% of the 160,000 acre fire perimeter has been contained. At the 53,800 acres Lolo Peak fire, managers were reporting that the containment perimeter is closer to 70%.
KPAX-TV 8 Missoula

Skunk extermination sparks shed fire in Somers

An attempt to get rid of an unwanted critter is to blame for a shed fire in Somers on Tuesday afternoon. According to South Kalispell Fire Chief Chris Yerkes, the blaze on Happy Hollow Road started while a man was attempting to exterminate a skunk in a plastic garbage can. The fire spread throughout the shed and melted a 150 gallon container of vegetable oil used for alternative-energy purposes, Yerkes said. The building was a total loss, but crews were able to save a riding lawn mower from the flames, as well as a nearby garage. There were no injuries. Cassey Kinnamon and her mother Patricia Kinnamon were among the first people on the scene. They saw the fire from the road and stopped to help after calling 911. There was one man with a hose when they arrived.
Kalispell Daily Interlake

Glasgow fire departments soliciting donations to buy new radios

The Glasgow city and Long Run fire departments are asking for help getting new radios. Right now the departments’ radios are about 15 years old and are hand-me-downs. The radios they currently have aren’t made for fire departments and if they get water in them they don’t work properly. At a fire recently, firefighters had to be pulled from the scene so they could communicate with the incident command and coordinate how they were fighting the fire. Angela Austin, a volunteer advocate for the departments, has created a GoFundMe page so people can donate. Austin said, “It’s a safety reason. If they can not be heard or communicate with their commanders, that poses a huge safety risk. They could be trying to tell them that the roof is about to fall down and I need you to get out now. The communication is very important, it is just key.”
KRTV-TV 3 Great Falls

Montana Television Network Montana Wildfire Relief Fund Raises $91,715

Montana Television Network (MTN) stations across the state have now raised $91,715 as part of their Montana Wildfire Relief Fund. The MTN stations will match the first $50,000 of that total. On Friday, September 15, the fundraising drive caught the attention of Arthur Blank and The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. Co-founder of The Home Depot, Blank owns the Atlanta Falcons and the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch. They announced an additional $50,000 match. It started Friday evening and applies to any donation received from that point forward. The donation comes from the Guest Ranch Fund, an affiliate fund to the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.
KBZK-TV Bozeman 7

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