Tester tells FEMA to treat fires like any natural disaster in effort to tap funding

A day after Gov. Steve Bullock declared a statewide fire emergency, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester took to the Senate floor to ask Congress and federal officials to help Montana firefighters, who are currently working as many as 22 active fires across the state.

Tester on Monday called upon Congress to treat wildfires like any other natural disaster so first responders can tap emergency funding in to fight them.

“Across Montana, over 250,000 acres have already burned and many of these fires continue to rage,” Tester said.  “Montana’s communities are strong, tight-knit and always persevere, but they expect more from their government.  Fires are a devastating natural disaster and should be treated that way.”

Earlier on Monday, Tester spoke to Garfield County commissioners who requested additional resources from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That county is facing the state’s largest fire in the 250,000-acre Lodgepole complex.

But FEMA’s regional administrator denied emergency funding for Montana, even after Bullock issued his emergency declaration.

In his floor speech, Tester asked FEMA Administrator Brock Long to request additional resources for Montana. Southern communities frequently get FEMA assistance for hurricanes and other natural disasters.

“As these brave communities and firefighters work around the clock, it’s time for FEMA to be accountable to Montana and for Congress to help out,” Tester said.  “We can do that by fixing how we fund firefighting.”