State wildfire season costs $95M
Montana escaped the 2018 fire season bearing a fraction of the damage incurred in 2017, with a total of 1,239 fire starts accounting for a loss of approximately 96,000 acres, according to a year-to-date report by the Northern Rockies Coordination Center.
A total of 35 wild land fires reached over 100 acres statewide between July and October, costing the state upward of 14.8 million in firefighting costs, Howe Ridge was the second most expensive fire of the year, with the 6,700-acre Gold Hill Fire north of Libby costing nearly 13.5 million.
Other major fires located in the Kootenai area included the 2,000-acre Garden Creek Fire costing 7.1 million, the 1,300-acre Rattlesnake Fire costing 6.9 million.
A majority of the season’s largest wild land fires including the high-profile Paola Ridge, Coal Ridge and Whale Butte fires in Flathead National Forest, ignited during widespread lightning event on Aug. 11 that affected most of the northwestern portion of the state.
Together, the Paola Ridge, Coal Ridge and Whale Butte fires cost a total of around 150,000 in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
The last five years fluctuated dramatically in fire season severity, with last year breaking records for acreage burned.
According to Chris Barth, public information officer for the Northern Rockies Coordination Center, 2018 fell on the lower end of average when compared to recent years.
Factors contributing to this year’s number, according to Connell, include the lack of major lightning events and a late start.
Normal fire seasons, Connell said, typically begin between late May and mid-June, but the Forest Service did not see its first wildfire until around mid-July.
This summer’s conditions allowed fire managers to handle fires differently than in extreme years, using different methods of firefighting that allow for forward-thinking in how they might impact the area and residents in years to come.
For more information about the 2018 Montana fire season, visit https://gacc.nifc.gov/nrcc/predictive/intelligence/ytd_historical/ytd-daily-state.htm.
Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or email@example.com.