Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus today announced that Montana's Rosebud and Powder River Counties, as well as Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, will soon receive federal disaster assistance.
FEMA today issued a major disaster declaration to help Montanans recover from the Ash Creek Fire. Despite the heroic efforts of tribal, state and federal firefighters, the fire burned nearly 400 square miles and destroyed 40 structures, including more than 20 homes, across southeast Montana in June and July.
FEMA will provide public assistance for emergency work and for the replacement of facilities damaged due to the fire. Assistance to prevent or reduce exposure to future natural disasters will also be available.
After Governor Brian Schweitzer formally requested federal assistance last week, Tester and Baucus called for FEMA to provide quick relief for affected Montanans.
"Montanans rally together in times of emergency, and though state, tribal and community officials are doing everything they can, they simply cannot bear this burden alone," Tester and Baucus wrote FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. "Public assistance for Rosebud and Powder River Counties, and the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, is urgently needed to mitigate further damage, and to help our communities get back on their feet."
Tester and Baucus added that additional disaster designations may be made at a later date if needed.
The senators alerted FEMA in early July to the possibility of Montana submitting a disaster assistance request, saying FEMA must "move quickly and grant a presidential disaster declaration if needed."
FEMA and state officials conducted a preliminary damage assessment of the fire in July. The assessment found widespread damage and loss of public and private property, including homes, farmland, electric utilities, and tribally owned facilities.
Montana's record-setting wildfires have burned more than 500,000 acres so far this year.