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Bullock praises Missoula firefighters for California wildfire help

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Montana Gov. Steve Bullock earlier this week praised members of the Missoula Fire Department for sending a team to assist California crews after wildfires swept across the Los Angeles area in December.

“When California called for assistance, Missoula’s firefighters answered that call with bravery and dedication,” Bullock said in a news release. “They represented the best of Montana and gained valuable experience to apply here at home when the time comes.”

California issued a nationwide call for 50 engine teams after the wildfires started at the end of last year, and Missoula’s city fire department sent a total of three engines and 12 people to assist. Firefighters from Missoula Rural Fire Department, as well as those from Columbus and Big Sky also made the trip from Montana.

Missoula city fire Chief Jason Diehl said that while in the summertime it’s more difficult to provide help to other areas, the fires in California coming in the winter made it easier to send units.

“When there’s snow on the ground here, it makes the decision to send wildland resources out of state much easier,” he said in a statement.

According to a city news release, the assistance Missoula sent came at no cost to taxpayers, and actually ended up generating revenue for the city on top of giving firefighters experience. The requesting agencies in California paid for the firefighter’s wages and equipment use. Since last summer, wildland firefighting contracting has brought in $1.1 million in reimbursement to the city fire department alone, leading to $300,000 in revenue after taking expenses into account.

Much of that revenue went to the city general fund, but some also was used to buy new equipment for the fire department, including protective equipment and rescue watercraft.

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