In Montana after weeks of hot, dry weather, tired firefighters finally got some good news from Mother Nature late last week the chance of cooler temperatures and rain in from the Northwest. But it will still be weeks before the fires are out, but businesses throughout the West will have watched their precious summer revenue go up in smoke.
So far this year some 73,000 blazes have burned 6.3 million acres 2 million in Montana and Idaho alone. States like Oregon, Washington, and California are just now entering the height of their fire seasons. Last week, 77 major fires were still burning in the even thought the some 27,000 firefighters are still fighting the blazes. The rain would allow for some resting of troops and the extinguishing of a few fires, but fire experts say it will take snowfall to completely put out the flames. The National Weather Service is guessing that will come in October, When the last fire is out, the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Interior expect they will have spent in excess of $1 billion on this year's firefighting a huge loss.
Clinton estimates that the value of lost land due to the blazes could go beyond $10 billion. Montana Gov. Marc Racicot said business losses might be averaging as much as $3 million a day in his state alone. The companies' hit the hardest will be those that rely on the land. University of Montana forest-industry researcher Chuck Keegan added that thousands of loggers and log movers there have had to take jobs in other states, join fire lines, or simply be unemployed.
The fires have also had an impact on tourism in the Rocky Mountain region. Matthew Cohn said guest-ranch operations have seen little profit in what's usually a busy time of year, and some may shut down even declare bankruptcy. In Idaho, forests last month were forced to close facilities at both the Main Salmon River and the Middle Fork of the Salmon, which are usually popular places for trips; officials said 27 different rivers have been shut down in the Middle Fork alone. "Tourism is a perishable item," said Cohn. "When August is over, you don't make up for it in November." Some firefighters say that this is the worst fires they have ever seen. These fires have firefighters hoping for rain and relief but praying for snow.