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Rice Ridge fire

A converted DC-10 jumbo jet drops a load of retardant on the Rice Ridge fire near Seeley Lake in early August.

MISSOULA — The federal government has denied Montana's disaster relief request for $44 million in the aftermath of the 2017 fire season that burned more than 1,500 square miles.

Montana Public Radio reports that the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied Gov. Steve Bullock's request for additional aid in late December.

The federal agency has already granted the state $11 million, covering some of the expenses for eight different fires.

Montana spent its entire two-year $60 million emergency fund for wildfire suppression in one year, using it up before last season ended.

This summer's fires burned more than 1.2 million acres in the state, with Bullock eventually declaring a state of emergency.

Montana Public Radio's attempts to reach a federal agency representative were unsuccessful.

A representative from Bullock's office says the state does not anticipate appealing the request, but will work with the congressional delegation to search for funding options.

The Forest Service and other federal agencies spent a record $2.9 billion battling forest fires in one of the nation's worst fire seasons. Wildfires have burned nearly 9 million acres across the country, with much of the devastation in California, Oregon and Montana.

In the Northern Rockies, researchers have said, the strongest predictor of the number and intensity of wildfires is the year-to-year variation in summer drought.