Montana Has Already Burned Through Its Entire $32 Million Fire Fighting Budget This Year

Tim Pearce | Energy Reporter

Montana’s fire fund is $21.2 million over budget as the state suffers through a historic fire season, the Billings Gazette reports.

In total, Montana’s 2017 fire season cost an estimated $308 million, according to the Northern Rockies Coordination Center.

Montana lawmakers cut the state’s fire budget in April by about half to conserve a $200 million stockpile set aside to reduce cuts to other state programs and services. The cuts brought the firefighting fund down from $62 million to $32.5 million, according to the Billings Gazette.

Though the decision to cut the fund looks bad now, Democratic state Sen. Jon Sesso believes that the legislature made the best decision at the time.

“It was as good a place as any to provide a contingency, and when you compare using available cash assets compared to making deeper cuts in other areas of the government, I think it was still a prudent contingency plan,” Sesso told the Billings Gazette.

This year’s fire season and financial woes was a unique coupling of historic fire activity and low revenues.

“Not only did we get less revenue than we had anticipated for ’17, but the fires are probably going to hit an historical level of expense,” Sesso said.

Montana is pulling money now from its Department of Natural Resources’ budget to cover the continually rising costs of this year’s wildfires.

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