The Florida coast may seem a long way away from the Rice Ridge Fire in Seeley Lake, but Fire Information Officer Mike Cole says the Incident Management Team he works with would normally be called out to help in a case like Hurricane Irma.

"In big hurricanes like Katrina and Rita, our teams from the Northwest went to Texas and Louisiana and we were managing evacuation shelters," Cole said. "Our 20 person crews were clearing out trees, opening up roads.... just the normal types of things people don't think about. We're all-incident teams so we go to all sorts of events."

An intense fire season in Montana and other western states this year means the Type I Incident Management teams are locked in to fighting wildfires and likely won’t be able to shift to hurricane assistance.

"Hurricanes are a big one and teams out of the Norther Rockies have been going to hurricanes for quite a few years," Cole said. "Evidently, this hurricane approaching the Florida coast is going to bring a drain on resources. We are already stretched thin on fires in the west, I don't know how this is going to affect how we would normally be able to assist in hurricane recovery."

Not only are things tight with the Type 1 Incident Management teams, Cole says an order was placed for a Type 2 team on the Liberty Fire, burning between Seeley Lake and Arlee, but there aren’t enough resources available and the order has gone unfilled.

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