Today, I am declaring a statewide fire disaster. In July and again in August, I declared statewide fire emergencies in Montana to provide additional resources to the brave men and women fighting these fires.
This new executive order allows me to continue mobilizing the Montana National Guard to help fight these fires and meet any contingencies or other needs as they arise. I have also requested and received two Fire Assistance Management Grants from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support state and local fire costs. I am making certain adequate resources are available to respond to fire and drought related impacts across the state and will continue to pursue all available state and federal resources to support ongoing wildfire suppression and recovery needs.
I take these fires very seriously and am in constant communication with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) and the Montana Disaster and Emergency Services at the Department of Military Affairs about the developments across the state. I receive a daily fire briefing on the status of state, local, and federal efforts to suppress fires and to review whether additional resources are needed to support our response beyond what is presently on the ground. Under all fires, coordination and communication among state, federal and local officials help ensure an efficient and effective response. Decisions on the type of resources used and the strategies for wildland firefighting must always consider firefighter safety, risk, and the availability of resources.
As of today, Montana National Guard members are deployed and over 125 aircraft have been assigned to these fires. Additional National Guard resources are being mobilized. Over 4000 firefighters and coordinating staff have been assigned to fight the fires currently burning in Montana, and their efforts are further bolstered by thousands more local volunteer firefighters. Montana is in one of the worst fire seasons in modern history and on its way to becoming the most expensive. At present, all partners are using all available means to control fires and protect Montana communities, however difficult weather conditions will continue to cause fire concerns until we experience a change in the forecast.
Montana will continue to support our firefighting needs independent of funding availability in the wildfire suppression account. We will continue to do everything we can to make sure folks on the ground have the resources they need to protect Montanans and their property. We will continue to support initial attack activities to capture new fire starts before they create additional challenges or until the threats subside.
Our firefighters are doing an incredible job. But these men and women are stretched – and we need your help to prevent new wildfires. This Labor Day Weekend and until conditions improve, we are asking for your continued support of our wildland firefighters, the communities, and businesses impacted by fires, and above all else, we are asking you to take every precaution to avoid creating new fires. Do not start a camp fire, please observe all current fire restrictions, and please warn others of the fire danger that exists. We must responsibly recreate on our public lands so that they are still here for others to enjoy.
Thank you again for contacting me. As Governor, my first and primary concern is the safety of our people, communities, and the health of our lands. Please enjoy this Labor Day Weekend, but stay aware, safe, and vigilant.