HELENA – State emergency managers now say they will appeal the federal government’s decision to deny millions of dollars in additional aid to deal with last year’s historic wildfire season.
Leaders initially said they wouldn’t ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reconsider its ruling last month that the fire season didn’t meet the requirements for a major disaster declaration. But Delila Bruno, administrator for Montana Disaster and Emergency Services, said they eventually decided to narrow and refocus their request.
“We wanted to align it with what FEMA is familiar with,” she said.
Bruno said the new request will frame the wildfires as a weather-related disaster. It will focus on the period between Sept. 1 and Sept. 20, when she says weather conditions were most severe and hundreds of new fires started.
The state is also asking for $14.8 million dollars, instead of the $44 million they originally requested. If FEMA declares a major disaster and approves that additional funding, it will be used to replenish Montana’s fire suppression fund.
Bruno said it will likely be at least a month before FEMA responds to the new request.
“We’re all just going to cross out fingers and see what happens,” she said.
More than 1.4 million acres across the state burned in last summer’s wildfires. Officials estimate the total cost of fighting those fires was around $400 million.