Crews work to stop fire’s spread to highway
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Firefighters are building fuel breaks as a barrier against a wildfire creeping through thick forest toward a main rail line and U.S. Highway 2 on Glacier National Park’s southern boundary.
The nearly 1-squre mile fire is spreading northeast toward the transportation corridor, and it is a mile south of the community of Essex. More than 100 residents have been on evacuation notice for five days.
Fire information officer Jonathan Moor said Monday that crews were carried in on a Burlington Northern Santa Fe work train to create gaps in the vegetation from the tracks toward the fire through steep, dense terrain.
Moor says train traffic is running on one of two lines, while the other is dedicated to firefighting efforts. Vehicle traffic is being guided along U.S. Highway 2 by pilot cars.
Montana helicopters sidelined from fighting federal fires
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — In a fire season plagued by equipment shortages, Montana’s five firefighting helicopters have been sidelined from attacking blazes on federal lands.
The issue is the 324-gallon buckets used to scoop and drop water from the modified Vietnam-era Bell UH-1 Hueys purchased from military surplus.
State Forester Bob Harrington said Monday the U.S. Forest Service notified the state in 2014 of a policy requiring that helicopters of that type to carry buckets 100 gallons smaller.
Harrington says modifications have increased the helicopters’ power to allow them to carry the larger buckets. He says the helicopters regularly respond to wildfires on state and private land, and state officials will not allow pilots to fly under two different protocols.
The Forest Service said in a statement the specifications required “provide an industry recognized margin of safety.”
Fire retardant color changed from rusty red to hot pink
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — An Idaho-based company that makes most of the retardant used on wildfires has stopped making the substance in its traditional rusty red, opting instead for a hot pink color.
The Missoulian reports that Phos-Chek representative Lou Gildemeister says pilots report that the pink clouds have better visibility.
Air tankers draw lines of retardant around the perimeter of a wildfire, but if they can’t see where the substance lands they could leave gaps.
Gildemeister says the pink shows up much better than red in the sun’s glare. It also shows up well on different types of vegetation, include rusty-looking trees killed by beetles in the northern Rocky Mountains.
Fire retardant is essentially colored fertilizer. It doesn’t extinguish fire, but it does slow a wildfire’s spread by making it more difficult to ignite new fuel.
Owners of property damaged by wildfires may get tax relief
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The state Department of Revenue is reminding owners of property or forest lands damaged by wildfire or other natural disasters that they may be eligible for property tax relief.
A property owner whose home or outbuildings are partially or totally destroyed by wildfire, wind or flooding, rendering it unsuitable for its previous use, may be eligible for property tax relief. Businesses whose equipment is destroyed may also qualify.
The tax relief is prorated based on the number of days in the tax year that the property is unusable. Property owners must complete an application by Dec. 31 to be eligible for the credit.
A forestland owner whose standing timber has been destroyed by wildfire in 2015 will receive a reduction in the assessed value for 20 years beginning with the 2016 tax year.
Shots fired in Lodge Grass led to school lockdown
(Information in the following story is from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Law enforcement officers in Lodge Grass arrested a man who had reportedly been driving around town firing a gun.
No one was injured.
Big Horn County Sheriff Robert Simpson tells The Billings Gazette the shots were fired in the downtown area at about 10 a.m. Monday. Interim Superintendent Victoria Falls Down says Lodge Grass schools were put on lockdown as a precaution. The lockdown was lifted at about 1:45 p.m.
The man was arrested at about 2:30 p.m. His name has not been released.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs is investigating the shooting.
Butte coalition scores victory in case against state
(Information in the following story is from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com)
BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Butte activists have succeeded in their efforts to get a name-change for a polluted channel in Butte that has gone by the name “Metro Storm Drain” for years.
The Montana Standard reports the Silver Bow Creek Headquarters Coalition earned a victory against the state of Montana Friday after a judge ruled that the channel be called by its former name, Silver Bow Creek.
The mostly dry channel has been contaminated by buried mine and smelter tailings.
The coalition maintains that if the channel is legally known as Silver Bow Creek, then the state will have to ensure it is an actual, free-flowing creek. Although the state has called for the pollution to be cleaned up, it hasn’t included a free-flowing creek as part of its cleanup plan.
Nevada settles with Common Core test maker for $1.2 million
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada has reached a $1.2 million settlement with the test maker blamed for the widespread technical problems last spring that left most of the state’s students unable to finish the required Common Core-aligned tests.
The Nevada Attorney General said Monday that New Hampshire-based Measured Progress will refund more than $1.2 million cash to the state’s Department of Education.
Breach of contract notices with the company and test creators, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium were filed in April, when technical problems also halted testing in Montana and North Dakota.
Measured Progress didn’t immediately provide comment and the state said no settlement has been reached with Smarter Balanced.
Although the Montana and North Dakota systems were largely restored, those states have also said they have been in talks for legal action.