KTVH: Montana strikes deal with feds allowing firefighting helicopters on federal land

(HELENA) Montana struck a deal with the feds allowing Montana’s five firefighting helicopters to respond to fires on federal land.

Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation says that this agreement allows the helicopters to be used when lives are at risk or when the Governor declares a wildfire emergency.

In 2015, state owned helicopters were not allowed to help due to policy issues. The state modified helicopters to comply with U.S. Forest Service regulations, but were still now allowed to respond.

This deal has the support of Republican U.S. Senator Steve Daines, who says “It is great to see the federal government work with the Montanans to combat wildfires.” But adds, “While this announcement is a step in the right direction, the Forest Service needs to continue working with our state to utilize all aerial firefighting resources on federal fires at any time to protect our forests and communities.”

Last season, Daines urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reverse their prohibition on the use of UH1H choppers to fight Montana blazes.