FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 21, 2015
Mike Wessler, Deputy Communications Director, Governor’s Office 444-9725
John Tubbs, Director, Department of Natural Resources & Conservation, 444-1948
Helena, Mont. – Governor Steve Bullock today sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack highlighting his frustrations with unnecessary restrictions on state efforts to combat wildfires in the state, and urging Vilsack to direct leadership within federal agencies to rescind those obstructions.
“I am doing my part to mobilize every available firefighting resource at my disposal, and make them available to all fire protection agencies,” Bullock said in his letter. “I encourage you to do your part by directing leadership within your respective agencies to rescind this unnecessary and artificial restriction on Montana aircraft as soon as possible.”
In his letter, Bullock highlighted instances where firefighters in state aircraft spotted fires on federal land, but were instructed by federal firefighting officials to not take efforts to combat the fires due to the fact that the fires were in federal jurisdiction. Bullock noted that in other instances, state aviation firefighters were forced to watch wildfires on federal land grow as they waited for an “approved” aircraft to be dispatched.
Bullock also emphasized the experience and effectiveness of state pilots in combatting wildfires in the state.
On August 16th, Bullock declared a state of emergency in Montana due to the number of fires burning in the state, and continued fire danger in most Montana counties. This declaration allows additional resources to be used to combat fires in the state.
Bullock’s letter to Vilsack can be found HERE