Montana dodges record fire season despite enduring severe drought

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Firefighter Greg Patterson with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fights flames as the Richard Spring fire moves towards Ashland in August.

MIKE CLARK, Billings Gazette Brett French

Despite Montana enduring a second year of drought conditions with record high summer temperatures, the state’s 2,300 wildland fires have so far been contained to about 870,000 acres.

That hasn’t been easy.

“It took more resources than average because of those critical fire conditions with the drought and the fire activity that we were seeing on the landscape,” said Sonya Germann, Forestry Division administrator for the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. Germann provided the update during a presentation to the Environmental Quality Council on Tuesday.

Thanks to the continuing drought, Germann said the state “saw a lot of critical fire conditions much earlier than we have seen in previous years.”

In comparison, the state’s record-setting season of 2017 saw 2,400 fires that burned 1.3 million acres.

Thanks to quick initial attack, often by local firefighting crews, about 95% of fires were contained in a

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