Montana’s worst fire season in years is expected to scorch the drought-stricken landscape well into fall, long after the state’s firefighting reserves run out thanks to politicians diverting millions of dollars to fill a budget shortfall.
There is only $12 million left of the $63 million in the firefighting fund in June, and the state is burning through that at a rate of $1.5 million a day, state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation director John Tubbs said Tuesday.
“We will use up the remaining balance in fairly short order,” he said.
The state’s financial worries come as forecasters for the National Interagency Fire Center predict that eastern Montana, southern California and the western Dakotas could be exposed to major wildfire threats into October or November.
A wet winter and spring produced thick grasses in the region, but a hot June melted the snow and dried out the vegetation, leaving it vulnerable to lightning-caused fires, said…
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