Firefighters working at Mont. asbestos mine get millions in EPA support

Firefighters receive equipment to deal with the high levels of asbestos at the superfund site

LIBBY, Mont. — Firefighters stationed near an asbestos-filled mine will receive millions in gear and resources thanks to a dedicated funding agreement between the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Forest Service.

The government agencies have allocated $2.1 million to help support firefighter teams stationed near the abandoned W.R. Grace & Co. mining site in Montana.

Officials have long expressed concerns about the health impacts a wildfire near the site would have. Tests conducted at the site last year revealed dangerous amounts of asbestos in the tree bark and forest floor, reports the Flathead Beacon.

The money will equip a four-man team of specially trained firefighters in the area with fire packs, a fire engine and one helicopter in order to protect the 47,000-acre site north of Libby.

New respirators attached to the fire packs will reduce the firefighters’ work rate, but protect them from the high levels of carcinogenic asbestos present at the scene.

In case a wildfire does break out at the site, the Libby-based fire crews will also have first priority when ordering aircraft to help put out the blaze.

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