HELENA) — Some residents who evacuated their homes due to a fire burning north of Helena were allowed to return Wednesday while state officials announced an influx of money available for fighting fires this summer.
Fire officials said the 7.5-square mile (19-square kilometer) fire north of Helena was 15% contained. Crews were mopping up hot spots as temperatures rose into the high 80s (31 Celsius) Wednesday afternoon.
The Lewis and Clark County sheriff’s office said residents across the Missouri River to the east of the fire could return home at noon Wednesday along with people who live further south of the fire’s boundary. Residents close to the southern edge of the fire along with the Black Sandy and White Sandy campgrounds along the river remain evacuated.
The fire, which started Friday, led to evacuation orders for about 400 residences. No homes were lost.
Undersheriff Jason Grimmis said he did not know how many residences remained under evacuation orders Wednesday afternoon.
Further west, the U.S. Forest Service reported a firefighter was flown to the hospital after suffering a lower leg injury north of Missoula Tuesday afternoon. He was treated and released.
In southwestern Montana, crews have contained a fire south of Bannack State Park.
Gov. Steve Bullock said Wednesday that Montana has more than $66 million in its firefighting fund as the 2019 fire season begins.
Bullock said state agencies finished Fiscal Year 2019 under budget, allowing the state to transfer $30 million into the fire fund.
Two years ago, lagging revenues led lawmakers to raid about half of the $60 million fund just before 2017’s record fire season.
While Montana averages about $20 million in firefighting costs each year, the 2017 season cost $74.4 million. The deficit contributed to a special legislative session in November 2017.
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