Tester tours Ash Creek, Dahl wildfires

With fires burning statewide, Senator thanks state’s hard-working firefighters

(ROUNDUP, Mont.) – Senator Jon Tester today toured Montana’s Ash Creek and Dahl wildfires, getting a firsthand understanding of the impact and challenges of Montana’s two biggest wildfires.

The Ash Creek fire stretches over 150,000 acres east of Lame Deer. Tester this morning toured the Billings Interagency Dispatch Center before receiving a briefing in Colstrip at the fire’s incident command post. He then traveled to Lame Deer to meet with tribal leadership, evacuated tribal members and Red Cross volunteers.

“The fire crews and shelter volunteers are doing tremendous work,” Tester said. “We need the weather to start breaking in our favor, but Montanans should know that our best firefighters and support personnel are on the job.”

Tester also surveyed the Dahl Fire near Roundup and toured the fire’s incident command post. The Dahl Fire, which has burned 22,000 acres and at least 70 homes, was caused by a lightning strike.

“My heart goes out to the folks who have lost their homes these last few days, but I know they’ll fight back with the support of their families, friends and communities,” Tester said.

Montana, like much of the American West, is facing numerous major fires exacerbated by high temperatures and winds. In addition to the Ash Creek and Dahl fires, the Bear Trap 2 Fire in Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest has burned more than 15,000 acres.

Tester toured the fires with fellow Montana Senator Max Baucus.

“Montana is no stranger to wildfires, but from what I’m hearing and seeing on the ground – this fire season is a different beast,” Baucus said. “My hat goes off to all the fire crews working around the clock to save lives and property, and I’m doing all I can to secure the resources they need to get the job done.”

Montana’s average fire season burns between 160,000 and 200,000 acres. As of Saturday, more than 300,000 acres had burned across the state, with a typical fire season not beginning until around August 1.

Tester is not waiting for the fires to burn out before taking action. The Senate yesterday passed his plan to speed up the approval process for homeowners looking to insure their property against the flood damage that often follows significant wildfires. Fire-scorched land can quickly alter ground conditions and lead to flooding. Tester’s bill waives the 30-day waiting period for flood insurance bought within 60 days of a fire.

Tester this week also called on Congress to give firefighters and forest managers the resources they need to reduce the risk of wildfires in high-risk states. He also thanked Montana’s firefighters for their brave efforts, saying “you risk your lives every day for folks you’ve never met.”

For the latest on Montana’s fires, click HERE. For photos from Tester’s and Baucus’ tour, click HERE.