Federal assistance approved for three Montana wildfires

Disaster assistance for MT fires

HELENA, Mont. - The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved disaster assistance for three large western Montana wildfires.

FEMA funding is available to pay 75 percent of the state's eligible firefighting costs for the Alice Creek Fire in Lewis and Clark County, the Rice Ridge Fire in Missoula and Powell Counties, and the West Fork Fire in Lincoln County. These resources will come from a fire management assistance grant.

Those costs can assist with expenses for field camps, equipment, tools, materials and supplies, and deployment.

What they don't cover are home, business or other infrastructure damage caused by the fire. 

U.S. Montana Senator Jon Tester told us this has been a costly fire season.

"I am glad that FEMA stepped forward to help with the reimbursement on these three major fires that have been active in Montana for some time," said Tester. "It is very important that we help the state with these resources."

Montana's other U.S. Senator Steve Daines said these additional resource are much needed.

"With more than a million acres of our state up in flames, these additional resources to help our firefighters attack the flames is much needed. I will continue to work to ensure firefighters have all of the resources they need until this terrible fire season is over," said Daines.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock met with FEMA administrator Brock Long on Thursday and asked him to exempt Montana from some of the requirements to qualify for fire management assistance grants and to expedite the state's grant requests when they were filed. Montana's Congressional delegation also requested the funding.

NBC Montana asked fire officials what those three fires have cost so far. 

The Alice Creek Fire near Lincoln has cost more than $8.7 million dollars and is now burning at more than 27,000 acres. The West Fork Fire north of Libby has grown to almost 10,000 acres and has cost $2.4 million dollars. At almost 133,000 acres, the Rice Ridge Fire near Seeley Lake has cost more than $36 million dollars.

FEMA earlier approved grants for fighting fires in eastern Montana and one near Lolo after initially denying the request.

Montana has spent more than $50 million on fire suppression since early July.

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