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State's fire fund flush as new fiscal year starts amid dry, hot summer

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Montana entered the new fiscal year at the start of July with about $104 million in the state's fire fund, the governor's office said last month.

The fund is filled with money reverted from the state's general fund and any cash unspent from the governor's emergency funding pot from the last fiscal year.

A spokesperson for Gov. Greg Gianforte said last month the cap on what can be put in the fire fund is about $104 million, meaning it's about as full as possible. The fire fund's maximum is set as a percentage of the general fund appropriation for the second year of the two-year budget lawmakers passed last spring.

The state also entered the new fiscal year that started July 1 with the maximum $114 million in the budget stabilization reserve fund, the spokesperson said in an email. That's in addition to a nearly $400 million in ending fund balance.

Montana has seen several fires already this summer, though it's hard to tell the cost as it can be split between the federal and state government. Gianforte also has $16 million in an emergency fund that can be used to address fire costs.

The fire fund reached its statutory maximum for the first time in 2020 under former Gov. Steve Bullock. The average yearly fire costs between 2009-2016 was $20.6 million, with the state picking up $15.4 million and the federal government covering $5.2 million through reimbursements.


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