Sen. Tester expresses funding issues during Lolo Peak Fire camp visit

by NBC Montana

MISSOULA, Mont. – U.S. Sen. Jon Tester visited a fire camp in Florence Monday where fire officials said the Lolo Peak Fire is burning through more than $1 million a day.

During his visit Tester he told NBC Montana there needs to be a different way to fund wildfires.

“Right now we are robbing the forest service budget to fund them,” Tester said.

“Fires are a natural disaster,” Tester said. “You need to set them aside and treat them like a natural disaster.”

Tester said he’ll introduce a wildfire fund bill when he gets back to Washington, D.C. in September. He hopes it will help to save the forest service some money.

NBC Montana asked Tester where the money to fund wildfires would come from.

“The forest service may take a little hit but initially it’s going to take some taxpayer dollars to make this thing work,” Tester said.

There’s no word yet how much it could cost taxpayers.

Tester said one thing he does know is the crews working the Lolo Peak Fire are top notch.

“It’s pretty hard to battle Mother Nature and these guys do a good job as I have ever seen,” Tester said. “It happens year after year, incident after incident.”