Commissioners declare state of emergency

In a move designed to make the county eligible for state funding assistance, the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners last week passed a declaration of emergency for Lincoln County.

Lincoln County Administrator Darren Coldwell said the move makes the county eligible to file for reimbursement for firefighting expenses in excess of two mills, should the county spend that much during the fire season. Two mills equates to roughly $70,000, Coldwell said.

“The approval of the declaration is in response to the expected costs that the County may incur, because of the Gibralter Ridge fire in Eureka,” he said. “It basically is to protect the taxpayers of Lincoln County.   There is no reason for people to read more into the declaration than a precaution that the County has to follow by law.”

The two mill threshold to qualify for state assistance only applies to the county’s responsibility in relation to the fire, Coldwell said. The state and federal shares of the cost are not included in the eligibility calculation.

Lincoln County, the City of Libby, the Kootenai National Forest, and the state lands in northwest Montana are currently under Stage II fire restrictions based upon current drought and fire danger conditions. Coldwell said residents should not panic, but should also exercise extreme caution in helping prevent additional fires.