HELENA — Gov. Steve Bullock on Thursday evening issued an executive order declaring a state of fire emergency due to extremely hazardous wildland fire conditions throughout Montana.
“Local, state, and federal partners, and the brave men and women on the front lines are working together to take on this fire season and we are prepared to use every resource available to protect Montana lives and property,” Bullock said in a press release. “At the same time, I know that Montanans will continue to take this seriously and stay safe, stay informed, and continue to support our firefighters and our communities impacted by fires.”
Several factors, including above-average temperatures, unpredictable winds, and low humidity have resulted in extreme fire conditions.
On Wednesday, seventeen new fires burned over 100,000 acres, the press release states. Moderate to severe drought conditions continue to exist throughout most of the Central and Eastern portions of Montana.
The hot and abnormally dry conditions are predicted to continue through the middle of September, and under current conditions, new wildland fire starts are likely throughout the state.
The declaration allows Bullock to mobilize additional state resources and the Montana National Guard to combat the fires to protect life, health, and property, and to expend funds to meet the contingencies and needs that may arise from them.
The emergency order also suspends hours of service regulations for drivers of commercial vehicles while providing support to fire suppression activities and temporary fuel permits normally required for vehicles providing supplies to help support response to the emergency. Commercial motor vehicle carriers cannot require or allow fatigued drivers to operate a motor vehicle.
Additionally, the emergency order suspends the brand inspection permit fee requirement and the brand inspection requirement prior to removal, as well as allows the Montana Department of Livestock to issue transportation permits by phone when necessary to cope with the emergency.
In August, Bullock doubled the state’s fire fund, reaching its statutory maximum of $101.5 million or enough to cover nearly five average wildfire seasons. State wildfire suppression costs as of Aug. 30 are estimated to be at $4.5 million.