State Says Fire Costs Down this Year

By Beacon Staff

HELENA — The state says a relatively easy fire season has reduced annual suppression costs.

The state forester told lawmakers Thursday that the state’s share for fire suppression is around $11 million. That compares to nearly $60 million last year.

Bob Harrington said Montana was very fortunate with the occasional heavy rains that came with the lightning that often create wildfires.

And he credited state and local firefighters with improved suppression of fire starts that could have caused big problems.

He said the state should leave the year with about $40 million in a reserve fire suppression account. The state says some of that surplus money could be used for fuel reduction in risky areas.

Fires totaled 192 square miles Montana this year, down substantially from 1,875 square miles last year.