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Gianforte asks Biden to declare major disaster after Richard Spring fire
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Gianforte asks Biden to declare major disaster after Richard Spring fire

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Gianforte tour

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte thanks fire officials during a briefing at the Richard Spring Fire incident command center in Colstrip in August.

Gov. Greg Gianforte on Friday requested President Joe Biden declare a major disaster for the state as a result of the Richard Spring fire.

The Richard Spring fire burned from Aug. 8 to Aug. 21 and charred more than 170,000 acres. The fire resulted in damage and losses to power lines, utilities, pastureland, tribal fencing and public and private property in Rosebud County and on the Northern Cheyenne reservation.

The state received a Fire Management Assistance Grant on Aug. 10, "but even with increased fire-fighting resources it was not enough to stop the widespread damage to public resources," the letter states.

The federal aid that accompanies a major disaster declaration will supplement state, tribal and local resources. States impacted by natural disasters like hurricanes, for example, often receive major disaster declarations from the federal government.

"Due to the number and magnitude of emergencies and disasters in the last four years including flooding, severe storms, drought and severe wildfires, the costs of responding to this wildland fire exceeds the capacity of the State of Montana," the request states.

Richard Spring fire

A truck drives down Tongue Creek Road as brush burns along both sides as the Richard Spring fire approaches Ashland on Tuesday, Aug. 11.

The second year of Montana's drought conditions coupled with record high summer temperatures saw 2,300 wildland fires consume 870,000 acres.

Since July 1, firefighting activity has cost the state $54.3 million. That compares to $24.5 million last fiscal year, which ended in June. The 10-year average is $23 million, The Gazette reported.

Gianforte toured the Richard Spring fire on Aug. 17, hearing from incident command personnel and tribal leaders.

Law enforcement, fire crews and residents work at the scene of the Richard Spring fire along Highway 212 near Lame Deer.

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