County Declares State of Emergency Amid Drought

County already has firefighting funds and those would be used up first before approaching the two mills

By Dillon Tabish

On July 2, the Flathead County Commission voted unanimously to declare a state of emergency in Flathead County, after discussions about the historically dry start to summer led them to ban fireworks.

According to Commissioner Gary Krueger, the declaration of a state of emergency should not send residents into a panic – it’s merely an administrative step that could allow the county to access funds that would help pay for clean up if a major fire does occur.

“Should we incur costs for this dryness with a fire start, we would be able to go to the taxpayers with two mills,” Krueger said. “It’s just being prepared.”

Krueger said the county already has firefighting funds, and those would be used up first before approaching the two mills. He also said only fire disasters would be considered for this money, and not other drought-related emergencies, such as crop damage.

Deputy county attorney Tara Fugina said the last time Flathead County declared such an emergency was during August in the wildfire-heavy 2003. State law says that the commission would need to vote unanimously to use the funds and that the money must remain in a separate emergency fund.

One major part of a county declaring a state of emergency is then being eligible for funds from the state, Fugina said, similar to the way Montana becomes eligible for federal emergency funds when the governor declares a state of emergency, which also occurred in 2003.

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