The Latest: Montana has $66.5M in firefighting fund - InfoNews

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The Latest: Montana has $66.5M in firefighting fund

July 31, 2019 - 1:07 PM

HELENA, Mont. - The Latest on wildfires burning in Montana (all times local):

2 p.m.

Montana has more than $66 million in its firefighting fund going into the 2019 season. Two years ago, lagging revenues led lawmakers to raid the fund just before a record fire season.

Gov. Steve Bullock said Wednesday that state agencies finished Fiscal Year 2019 under budget, which allows $30 million of that surplus to be added to the fire fund.

In recent years, Montana has averaged about $20 million in annual firefighting costs.

The fire fund contained about $60 million in May 2017 when lawmakers pulled out $30 million due to lagging revenues.

The 2017 fire season cost the state $74.4 million, leaving the state about $40 million short. The deficit contributed to a special legislative session in November 2017.

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11:55 a.m.

The Lewis and Clark County sheriff's office is allowing some people evacuated by the fire in the hills north of Helena to return to their homes.

Areas east of the fire and across the Missouri River and others south of the fire are being opened at noon Wednesday.

Other areas, including residences close to the southern edge of the fire and the Black Sandy and White Sandy campgrounds, remain under evacuation orders due to the fire.

Only residents will be allowed into the area. Roadblocks will still be in place.

The fire led to evacuation orders for about 400 residences. No homes were lost. Undersheriff Jason Grimmis said he did not know how many residences remained under evacuation orders.

The sheriff's office will notify the public when the evacuation orders are lifted for the remaining areas.

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8:50 a.m.

Firefighters have begun building line around some of the fire burning in the hills north of Helena.

Fire officials say the 7-square mile (19-square kilometre) fire north of Helena was 15 per cent contained Wednesday morning. Crews are mopping up hot spots as the fire continues to burn on its northeastern edge. A red flag warning is in effect from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. for scattered lightning that could start new fires.

A meeting is set Wednesday evening for residents evacuated by the fire, which started last Friday.

Further west, the U.S. Forest Service reports a firefighter suffered a leg injury north of Missoula Tuesday afternoon. The firefighter was flown to a Missoula hospital and was listed in stable condition.

In southwestern Montana, crews have contained a fire south of Bannack State Park.

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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