Tag Archives: wildfires

Akinkoka Fire getting plenty of attention

Forest Service crews and air support hit the Akinkoka Fire (the one up Moose Creek) pretty hard yesterday and have more assets scheduled today. Fire extent is on the order of 10-20 acres on steep, rugged terrain. The fire retardant dropped yesterday was still holding back the fire this morning. Ground crews and aircraft continue to work on the Akinkoka Fire as this message is posted.

No one seems as excited about the pair of small fires near the end of the Hay Creek drainage (the two are quite close together). There are people scheduled to be on that fire complex this morning.

Possible smoke was reported up the Red Meadow drainage late yesterday, but nothing was located by aircraft or ground personnel.

Area fire danger ‘high’; two fires on North Fork

Two lightening-caused fires kindled on the North Fork today, July 30. One up the Moose Creek drainage, the Akinkoka Fire, is being attacked aggressively. Another smaller, as yet unnamed, fire burning in heavy timber toward the upper reaches of the Hay Creek Drainage, should see action from fire crews tomorrow.

In general, fire danger is now considered high throughout the entire valley . . .

Local fire managers have moved the fire danger to “high” based on current and expected weather conditions.

The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation announced the heightened fire danger Wednesday. No fire restrictions are in place at this time. Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service announced that dry lightning on Tuesday night caused four small fires on the Flathead National Forest. Two of the fires are along the North Fork of the Flathead River and another is north of Whitefish Lake.

Temperatures are forecasted to be in the 80s to 90s with the potential for lightning associated with afternoon thunderstorms. Hot, dry, and breezy conditions will continue to dry fine forest fuels such as grasses and brush that will then be more likely to catch fire.

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Firefighting costs scuttled several other projects

Fighting wildfires pulled Forest Service money away from a number of other projects last year . . .

Paying for forest fires pre-empted lots of U.S. Forest Service work last year, according to a report released Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Mine cleanup work in the Ninemile Ranger District and partnership arrangements with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks were among the western Montana jobs dropped in 2013 when the federal agency had to redirect $505 million of its annual budget for fire suppression.

The Forest Service also pulled $440 million away from its regular budget in 2012.

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U.S. Forest Service expands tanker fleet

Well, this is encouraging. The Forest Service managed to scrape up some more firefighting aircraft this year. Even more would be better, but . . .

As the Obama administration pushes Congress to ensure that enough money is available to fight destructive wildfires, the U.S. Forest Service announced Tuesday it was adding four aircraft to its firefighting fleet ahead of what’s expected to be another hot, dry summer in the West.

In a statement, the service said it will have a second DC10 and three smaller planes in service in the coming weeks to support over 10,000 firefighters “in the face of what is shaping up to be a catastrophic fire season in the southwest.”

The Forest Service expects to exceed this year’s budget in July, two months before this fiscal year ends. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack discussed 2015 budget proposals by the administration Tuesday in Colorado, where deadly fires in 2012 and 2013 destroyed hundreds of homes.

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Wildfires could cost $400M more than budgeted

As in the last several years, the Interior Department is likely to come up short on funds to fight wildfires . . .

This year’s wildfires could cost almost half a billion dollars more than what the U.S. Forest Service has budgeted, according to Department of Interior estimates.

In a report to Congress released Thursday, DOI officials said they may need $1.8 billion for firefighting this season. But they have only $1.4 billion budgeted for the work.

“While our agencies will spend the necessary resources to protect people, homes and our forests, the high levels of wildfire this report predicts would force us to borrow funds from forest restoration, recreation and other areas,” Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie said in a news release. Both President Barack Obama’s proposed budget and legislation currently before Congress would allow the Forest Service to pay for fire expenses the same way the federal government assists natural disasters like hurricanes and floods.

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Congress working on new way to find major wildfires

A bipartisan effort is shaping up to devise a better funding formula for handling big wildfires . . .

A bipartisan effort is underway in Congress to change the way the country pays to battle its most catastrophic wildfires.

Lawmakers from Oregon and Idaho met with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Monday to discuss the budget reform.

President Barack Obama’s proposed budget would prevent the diversion of money intended for forest thinning and other wildfire prevention efforts.

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A new approach to paying for major wildfires

The Obama administration wants to pay for catastrophic wildfires with natural disaster funds . . .

The Obama administration’s proposed 2015 budget aims to change how the federal government pays for catastrophic wildfires.

In the past, large wildfires were paid for through the Forest Service budget. If a large fire broke out, the service would “borrow” money from funds used for forest restoration and other projects.

In the past, the Forest Service spent about 16 percent of its total budget on firefighting. But in more recent years, that figure has dramatically increased to about 40 percent, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said last week.

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Wildfire science has moved beyond Smokey Bear

Wildfires are handled a lot differently than they were a few decades ago . . .

Smokey Bear taught a simple message: “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

Modern fire science has grown far beyond that slogan, according to Tom Zimmerman, president of the International Association of Wildland Fire. But the public that breathes the smoke and the politicians who control the funding have trouble seeing fire as something other than an unnatural event that needs to be stopped.

“There are a lot of jokes out there about Smoky and drip-torches,” Zimmerman said. “We’re still coming out of that era when all fire was harmful. And there’s no good six-word message to replace it.”

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Local fires under control so far

Wildfires in this corner of Montana are under control as of this morning . . .

While our neighbors to the south are dealing with considerably more wildfires and the resulting smoke, the northwest corner of the state hasn’t yet had any starts blow up to something more serious.

Authorities said to credit rapid responses, and wildfire location.

Three helicopters on Monday “hammered with water” the 100-acre Stoner Creek blaze just 2 1/2 miles west of Lakeside and prevented its further spread toward structures, the closest just a quarter of a mile away.

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