Welcome to the Fire & Aviation Bureau Website!
The Department of Natural Resources and Conservation seeks the public’s help to be “Fire Smart” throughout the rest of the summer. Please remember that both possession and use of fireworks are prohibited on state and federal lands. Each year many fires are started by the careless use of fireworks. Do your part to prevent wildland fires: carry a shovel, bucket, fire extinguisher and have water available.
Medicine Rock Fire and Canadian helitack crews
assist DNRC engine with initial attack
Fire and Aviation Management Bureau
The DNRC Fire and Aviation Management Bureau provides resources, leadership, and coordination to Montana’s wildfire services to protect lives, property, and natural resources. The DNRC works with local, Tribal, state, and federal partners to ensure wildfire protection on all state and private land in Montana.
The DNRC provides wildland fire leadership to Montana to protect the natural resources of the state by preventing and suppressing wildland fires. All wildlands in Montana have some form of fire protection. A total of 50,265,678 acres of state-owned and private lands is protected.
DNRC staffs 65 engines and water tenders and seven helicopters to provide direct fire protection on 5.2 million acres. This includes approximately 3.5 million acres of state and private lands and 1.7 million acres of federal public lands.
County Cooperative Fire Protection
As mentioned, DNRC has fire protection responsibilities for roughly 50 million acres statewide; 5.2 million lies within the direct protection program. The remaining 45 million acres is protected by a network of 400 fire departments statewide through the County Cooperative Fire Protection Program. DNRC provides training, prevention materials, and equipment and assists on fires that escape the capabilities of the county. More than 350 engines and water tenders are on loan and located throughout each county across the state.
Another important component of the County Cooperative Fire Protection Program is the Volunteer and Rural Fire Assistance (VFA/RFA) Program, which provides grants to county fire agencies for equipment, training, and fire prevention materials. The program is funded by the USDA Forest Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Shepherd Fire, county cooperative engine providing structure protection
The DNRC operates and maintains a fleet of 10 aircraft, including seven helicopters and three fixed wing airplanes. The three Cessna 180 series fixed-wing aircraft based in Helena, Missoula, and Kalispell are used primarily for fire patrol and personnel transportation. Three of the five MT-205 series, type 2 helicopters (also in Helena, Missoula, and Kalispell) are used for direct protection, and two are used for statewide fire support. Two light, type 3 Bell 206 B-III helicopters are stationed in Helena and are also available for use statewide. One is owned by the DEQ. DNRC maintains this aircraft and provides pilot services to DEQ in return for the right to use this aircraft for fire missions. The second light helicopter is used as a back-up aircraft or for additional coverage and fire administrative missions.
The DNRC administers numerous programs aimed at effective fire preparedness and capacity building for local, Tribal, and state fire organizations. The fire preparedness effort is focused in four areas: the Fire Prevention Program, which seeks to educate Montanans about fire risk, the wildland urban interface, and reducing human-caused fires; the Fire Training Program, which provides statewide training opportunities for DNRC and local government personnel; the equipment development center, which builds and maintains wildland fire equipment and communications; and fire support programs, such as GIS and fire assessment fees.
The DNRC Fire Prevention Program seeks to reduce human-caused wildland fires which, in turn, reduces property and resource loss, improves safety, and reduces suppression costs.
Malta Hi-Line Fire Education Day, kids learn about the tools firefighters use when fighting fire
DNRC provides training in fire prevention, detection, investigation, suppression, aviation, communications, safety, prescribed fire, participation on incident management teams, and wildland fire-training instruction. In addition, training staff provide opportunities for DNRC and local government overhead and management personnel at the Northern Rockies Interagency Training Center, National Fire Academy, and National Advanced Fire and Resource Institute.
Equipment Development Center
Through its Equipment Development Program, DNRC obtains new vehicles and federal excess property and develops them into fire suppression equipment and vehicles. This equipment is used to support the DNRC Direct Protection and County Cooperative Fire Protection programs.
Fire Support Programs
DNRC Fire Support Programs provide financial and technical expertise to assist all fire programs in meeting their respective goals and mandates. Fire support programs include the fire assessment program, which tracks fire assessment fees collected through the Montana Department of Revenue in support of the DNRC fire management programs, design and maintenance of DNRC’s radio system to ensure effective communications during wildfire response, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) support including fire mapping, fire protection boundary mapping, wildland urban interface mapping, and miscellaneous additional products.