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    Post Montana Wildfire News

    HAMILTON (AP) - Continued cool weather helped crews increase
    containment Sunday of a wildfire burning southwest of Hamilton and
    others in the Bitterroot National Forest.
    The 185-acre Capri Lake fire did not grow overnight, and
    firefighters had contained 70 percent of the blaze by Sunday
    morning, fire information officer Sue Heald said.
    The fire was reported 15 percent contained Saturday. Crews
    continued to dig lines around the blaze Sunday and mop up hot spots
    within it.
    Also in the Bitterroot forest, crews contained the 63-acre Calf
    Creek fire and began demobilizing from the scene. One hand crew and
    one engine were left to patrol the blaze, Heald said.
    Firefighters also extinguished two small fires and made progress
    on the 80-acre main blaze in the Siegel fire complex east of St.
    Regis. Lightning sparked two fires Saturday on the Flathead Indian
    Reservation, but neither showed major growth.

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    Post August 9th

    HAMILTON (AP) - Crews in the Bitterroot National Forest say they
    hope to fully contain a fire burning southwest of Hamilton by
    Wednesday.
    The Capri Lake fire has burned 155 acres and is now 95 percent
    contained. It was sparked by lightning earlier this month.
    Nearly 260 firefighters remained at that blaze and the Calf
    Creek fire, which was fully contained over the weekend after
    burning 63 acres.
    Another 19 smaller fires are burning in several wilderness
    areas. Crews are fighting four of the fires, and monitoring the
    remaining 15 by air.
    A new fire has been reported 15 miles east of Sula. It's burned
    just one acre.
    The Clifford Point fire was sparked by last week's lightning
    storm. It started smoldering yesterday (Sunday) because of high
    temperatures, lower humidity and stronger winds.

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    Post Sept. 1st

    REED POINT (AP) - A forest fire broke out near here Wednesday
    evening, disrupting traffic along southern Montana's main highway,
    damaging at least one building and burning hundreds of acres of
    forest and grass lands, officials said.
    It started when a lightning strike hit a tree and it burst into
    fire.
    "I heard it hit - it sounded like a sonic boom," said Julie
    Pratton, who lives near the Reed Point Elementary School.
    The Whistle Creek fire was being fought by six rural fire
    departments, two helicopters dipping water out of the Yellowstone
    River and personnel from the Department of Natural Resources and
    Conservation.
    Stillwater County spokeswoman Karen Tyra estimated the fire was
    at least 800 acres. She said it would be Thursday before officials
    could determine its extent.
    About 30 head of cattle were quickly moved out of the fire's
    path as it burned up to the pavement of Interstate 90 and spotted
    into the median, officials said.
    The Montana Highway Patrol said traffic was disrupted - then
    stopped - because smoke limited visibility through the evening. At
    times, one-lane traffic proceeded with visibility limited to 100
    yards, the patrol said.
    A shop at the farmstead of Joan and Bill Langford was damaged.
    The Stillwater County Commission declared an emergency because
    of the extreme fire danger and the dangerous Whistle Creek fire,
    said Commissioner Maureen Davey.
    Fire crews from Reed Point, Columbus, Park City, Absarokee and
    Rapelje fought the fire, and the Big Timber Fire Department
    attacked from the west side of the blaze.
    Wind and lightning also started at least five grass fires and
    threatened six ranches in Chouteau County, in north-central
    Montana. One of them spread over more than 500 acres some five
    miles north of Fort Benton, officials said. Three farms and ranches
    were within one-eighth of a mile of the blaze.
    Wind knocked over a power pole igniting a 200- to 300-acre fire
    near U.S. 87, to the south of the Missouri River community, said
    Sheriff Doug Williams.
    He said there were numerous power outages resulting from downed
    utility poles, but there were no injuries and no buildings damaged.


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    Post OUTLOOK

    HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Gov. Brian Schweitzer received assurances
    Monday that Montana will be prepared this summer for a wildfire
    season that many believe could be one of the worst since 1988, when
    more than 2 million acres burned in the Northern Rockies.
    Scores of fire departments have hundreds of pumper trucks ready,
    and the state has 55 such fire engines, plus water tanker trucks,
    six helicopters, three fire detection aircraft, and 120 full-time
    firefighters, officials told Schweitzer in a meeting at the
    Capitol. The National Guard will have about 2,200 air and Army
    members available in addition to its six water-toting helicopters.
    The only major concerns raised during an hour-long meeting on
    fire readiness were potential cuts in the U.S. Forest Service
    firefighting budget and availability of the large tanker aircraft
    for carrying fire retardant.
    Terry Chute, Forest Service liaison to state government, said
    his agency expects to have at least eight large tanker planes
    available nationally this year. Most of the World War II-vintage
    craft were grounded last year for safety checks. Chute said the
    Forest Service is seeking contracts for 20 tanker planes this year,
    but the aircraft require special inspection and certification.
    He also said the Forest Service may have only 50 percent to 60
    percent of full funding for hiring fire crews this year, but
    additional money may become available if fire conditions are severe
    enough.
    Schweitzer convened the meeting just a few days after he voiced
    fears about this year's fire season because of continued drought, a
    lack of mountain snowpack and forests jammed with fuel for flames.
    "I want to know what our assets and vulnerabilities are,"
    Schweitzer said.
    Last week, the governor said he had asked the Pentagon to return
    some of the National Guard troops and equipment called up because
    of the Iraq war.
    Bob Harrington, state forester, said one of the big questions is
    whether other parts of the West will be plagued by bad fires as
    well.
    "There's a lot of country with the potential to suck resources
    away from Montana," he said.
    Schweitzer said he will seek mutual aid commitments from other
    western governors and the leaders of western Canadian provinces
    should the worst-case scenario erupt in the Montana this year.
    Harrington said the state can also count on help from the Forest
    Service and Bureau of Land Management for help, as well as the
    armed forces and a growing number of private contractors standing
    ready with pumper engines, bulldozers and other equipment needed to
    attack fires.
    The increasing problem of wildfires in recent years has prompted
    more people to get into the business of providing machinery to
    fight the fires, said Ted Mead, fire and aviation bureau chief for
    the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. Those
    contractors will be signing up with the Forest Service soon and the
    state plans an ad campaign to encourage prompt registration so
    authorities know where the equipment is when it's needed, he said.
    Col. Brad Livingston, chief of staff for Montana Adjutant
    General Randy Mosley, said the National Guard will have three of
    its 12 Blackhawk helicopters and their crews returned from Iraq and
    ready to fly by June. In addition, the Guard has three larger
    Chinook helicopters, each capable of hauling 2,000 gallons of
    water, he said.
    If necessary, the Montana Guard can get more helicopters and
    crews from other states' Guard units, Livingston told Schweitzer.
    The governor said that capability will be critical. "I want to be
    an e-mail away" from getting assistance from outside Montana, he
    said.

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    Post

    HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Plagued by continuing drought, a shortage
    of mountain snow and forests full of dry timber, Montana is a
    powder keg as the summer wildfire season approaches, Montana Gov.
    Brian Schweitzer said Friday
    Schweitzer has asked the Pentagon to return some of the 1,500
    Montana National Guard troops and aircraft called to active duty
    because of Iraq. He is urging anyone with firefighting equipment to
    sign up with the U.S. Forest Service so they can be summoned
    quickly when help is needed on the fire lines.
    Schweitzer also plans to ask governors in Idaho and Washington,
    and provincial officials in Saskatchewan and Alberta to commit
    manpower and machines should the fires ignite as he expects. Such
    mutual aid will be critical, he said.
    "Somebody's going to have a blowup," Schweitzer said in an
    interview. "Is it northern Idaho, is it eastern Washington or is
    it Montana? Are we all going to burn at the same rate or is one of
    us going to have a bigger blowup?"
    He fears the answer will be Montana.
    Twenty-five river basins hold less than half their usual
    mountain snow and forecasts on 18 rivers are for an average flow
    barely half of normal. Soil is dry and temperatures are high, with
    no relief in sight.
    Barring a sweeping change in the weather that includes the
    unlikely arrival of rain throughout historically arid July and
    August, Schweitzer said, "Everything leading up to this puts us in
    a position where this is a powder keg.
    "I know it's going to be a bad fire year," he said, adding he
    anticipates a repeat of the 1988 season when 4,122 fires charred
    2.2 million in the Northern Rockies, including about 793,000 acres
    in Yellowstone National Park.
    The worst year since then was 2000, when 3,955 fires burned
    almost 948,000 acres and destroyed 320 homes and other buildings in
    Montana alone.
    "We've got an event that could be much larger than that,"
    Schweitzer said of 2005.
    He will meet Monday with officials from at least seven state and
    federal agencies to plan for the fires that he said are "just a
    matter when."
    Linda Anderson, executive director of the Glacier County
    Regional Tourism Commission, said gloomy predictions like
    Schweitzer's are poorly timed because this is when people are
    planning their summer vacations.
    "With those kinds of statements going out right now, right in
    the key planning times, the message goes out to people thinking
    about bringing their families to Montana and they say, 'Let's go to
    Colorado,"' she said. "If the national press is saying Montana is
    dry and already on fire, we can kiss the tourism season goodbye."
    The governor said he is particularly worried about a shortage of
    available Guard soldiers and helicopters to carry water and
    firefighters to the flames.
    Maj. Scott Smith, public affairs officer for the Montana Guard,
    said about 2,000 soldiers, often called on to supplement fire crews
    each summer, remain in Montana. But 10 of the state's 12 UH-60
    Blackhawk helicopters, each capable of carrying a 600-gallon water
    bucket or 11 firefighters, are not back from Iraq, he said.
    The Guard has three larger CH-47 Chinook helicopters able to
    haul 2,000 gallons of water, but lacks enough flight engineers to
    operate them all, Smith said.
    He said he was not sure whether Guard members would be returned
    to the state at Schweitzer's request, but a federal mission
    typically takes precedence over state authority.
    Schweitzer said one of top priorities is making sure the
    necessary equipment - bulldozers, skidders, front-end loaders,
    water pumpers, tanker trucks and aircraft - are stationed
    strategically around Montana's 145,000 square miles to quickly
    attack the fires where they occur.
    "We need to know the assets we have," he said. "It doesn't do
    me any good to have a bunch of dozers up here in the Flathead
    (northwestern Montana) and have the thing blow up in the Beaverhead
    (southwestern Montana)."
    Victor Bjornberg, state tourism development coordinator, said
    Montana's No. 2 industry is worried.
    "It doesn't look good for outdoor recreation if it remains this
    dry," he said.
    If wildfires do erupt, Bjornberg said his office will work with
    tourism businesses to ensure that potential visitors to the state
    understand that they do not have to change their travel plans.
    "People need to realize that we have 93 million acres and if we
    have a few thousand acres on fire, there's still a lot of space
    available," he said.

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    Post July 18th

    BILLINGS (AP) - A lighting-caused fire had burned 5,000 acres on
    the Crow Indian Reservation by Monday night, authorities said.
    Another lightning-caused fire started Monday on the Charles M.
    Russell National Wildlife Refuge north of Winnett, while a third
    fire was close to being mopped up near Ennis.
    The Big Horn Fire on the Crow Reservation was reported about
    2:30 p.m. Saturday in a wooded canyon about 20 miles southwest of
    Fort Smith. By Monday night, the fire had spread throughout a
    5,000-acre area of dry timber and tall grasses.
    "With the continued warm temperatures and the abundance of dry
    fuel, we're getting into fire season," Larry Elder, intelligence
    coordinator for the Billings Dispatch Center, said Monday night.
    A specialized team is expected to take over managing the fire
    Tuesday morning. Pat McKelvey, a fire information officer with the
    Northern Rockies Incident Management Team, said as many as 200
    firefighters would be involved in the battle within the next day or
    so.
    Two single-engine airplanes, four fire engines, a water tender,
    a grader and two bulldozers were among the equipment already on the
    reservation. Authorities also requested at least two helicopters.
    Aircraft will be drawing water from Bighorn Reservoir.
    No injuries were reported Monday night and officials said
    evacuations would be unlikely. No structures were threatened.
    The McArthur Fire was reported Monday afternoon in the Charles
    M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.
    A pilot reported the fire in Fisher Coulee, in a spot where
    lightning struck a tree on Sunday, said fire management officer
    Mike Granger.
    "We've dropped quite a bit of retardant on it," Granger said.
    He said the fire had burned about 5 acres when crews first
    arrived, but blew up to 250 acres within 90 minutes.
    "It was spotting and being pushed by the wind," he said.
    Granger said crews planned to burn out areas around the fire and
    "hopefully get rid of most of the fuel within the perimeter of the
    fire," before strong winds forecast for Tuesday arrive.
    Granger said two crews, a helicopter and seven engines were
    fighting the fire.
    And southwest of Ennis, cooler temperatures and a letup in
    strong winds were helping firefighters as they mopped up the
    125-acre Johnny Ridge Fire.
    The fire in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest was
    apparently sparked by a lightning strike on Saturday. Winds of 30
    mph fanned the flames and the fire had burned just over 100 acres
    by late Sunday.
    The wind also led to hundreds of spot fires over another 400
    acres ahead of the main fire, and crews were mopping up those hot
    spots on Monday as the winds tapered off.
    "If we don't have any wind again, we could see this thing wrap
    up pretty quickly," he said.
    The fire was 85 percent contained Monday evening, said Forest
    Service spokesman Jack de Golia.
    De Golia said the fire was a bit unusual in that ground
    vegetation was green and wet enough that it didn't burn readily.
    But the fire got into the upper branches of trees, creating a crown
    fire that spread through the treetops, often leaving the ground
    vegetation untouched.
    About 130 firefighters were battling the blaze, along with three
    fire engines and a helicopter.
    The fire is burning trees and grass above 8,500 feet in the
    Gravelly Range. No buildings were threatened and no one had been
    injured, but areas around the fire were temporarily closed for
    public safety reasons, de Golia said.

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    Post July 19th

    BILLINGS (AP) - The nearly five-thousand acre Big Horn fire
    burning on the Crow Indian Reservation is burning in such a remote
    area, that the logistics are giving managers as much trouble as the
    blaze itself.
    Pat McKelvey is the fire information officer. He says the base
    camp is about a two-hour drive from the fire, and fire crews are
    staying at a "spike" camp that's a couple miles from the fire. He
    says it's tough to haul the water and port-a-potties over the
    steep, rocky roads.
    One Hot Shot crew is on the fire, along with three hand crews.
    Two more Hot Shot crews are expected tomorrow.
    And on the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge, the McArthur fire
    doubled in size to 900 acres today, as strong winds blew through
    the area. It had burned 450 acres this morning.
    Fire management officer Mike Granger says crews were pulled off
    the fire lines for about three hours, as the fire spread. The
    Lightning-caused fire is now burning on Bureau of Land Management
    and private land.

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    BILLINGS (AP) - Crews continued to fight a lighting-caused fire
    Tuesday that had burned nearly 5,000 acres on the Crow Indian
    Reservation, authorities said.
    Another fire sparked by lightning on the Charles M. Russell
    National Wildlife Refuge had grown to 450 acres north of Winnett,
    while a third fire near Ennis was close to being contained.
    Red flag fire conditions - a combination of hot weather, high
    winds and low humidity - were predicted across most of the state
    through Tuesday night, the National Weather Service said.
    On the Crow Reservation, the Big Horn fire had burned more than
    4,560 acres of dry timber and tall grasses as of late Monday night
    and had no containment, National Interagency Fire Center
    spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said.
    Winds had earlier posed a problem for firefighters by moving the
    fire into more timbered areas, but no structures were immediately
    threatened, she said.
    A specialized team was expected to take over managing the fire
    Tuesday morning. Pat McKelvey, a fire information officer with the
    Northern Rockies Incident Management Team, said as many as 200
    firefighters would be involved in the blaze over the next few days.
    Two single-engine airplanes, four fire engines, a water tender,
    a grader and two bulldozers were among the equipment already on the
    reservation. Authorities also requested at least two helicopters.
    No injuries were reported Monday night and officials said
    evacuations would be unlikely.
    The McArthur fire was reported at 450 acres Tuesday in the
    Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, fire management
    officer Mike Granger said. It was about 5 acres when crews first
    arrived Monday, but blew up to 250 acres within 90 minutes.
    Crews burned out areas around the fire Monday night to get rid
    of dry fuels in anticipation of strong winds forecast for Tuesday,
    Granger said.
    "They're already starting to blow," he said. "If we can hold
    it today it will be good. I'm not giving any predictions on that
    one though."
    Two crews, a helicopter and several engines were fighting the
    fire, which was 20 percent contained, Granger said.
    Southwest of Ennis, crews continued to mop up the 125-acre
    Johnny Ridge fire, which was sparked by lightning on Saturday. Full
    containment was estimated by Thursday night, Beaverhead-Deerlodge
    National Forest spokesman Jack de Golia said.
    The fire, he said, was a bit unusual in that ground vegetation
    was green and wet enough that it didn't burn readily. But it got
    into the upper branches of trees, creating a crown fire that spread
    through the treetops, often leaving the ground vegetation
    untouched.
    About 130 firefighters were battling the blaze, along with three
    fire engines and a helicopter.
    The fire was burning trees and grass above 8,500 feet in the
    Gravelly Range. No buildings were threatened and no one had been
    injured, but areas around the fire were temporarily closed for
    public safety reasons, de Golia said.

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    Post July 20th

    BILLINGS (AP) - Grasses that flourished with spring moisture are
    being dried out by summer heat and brisk winds and turning into
    fast burning fuels for area wildfires.
    At least three lightning-caused fires were burning in Montana
    Wednesday, with the largest, the 5,000-acre Big Horn Mountain fire
    in southeast Montana, burning through rugged, tree-lined terrain,
    grasses and sage, Mark Heppler, assistant manager of the Billings
    Dispatch Center, which helps coordinate resources, said Wednesday.
    About 200 firefighters were on that fire, which was started by
    lightning on the Crow Indian reservation and was not threatening
    any buildings or communities, he said.
    The fire's small growth Wednesday came mostly within the lines.
    "It burned into some areas that needed to be burned in anyway
    to finish this off," said Pat McKelvey, fire information officer
    with the Northern Rockies Incident Management Team.
    He said the fire was 50 percent contained, with full containment
    expected Saturday night.
    A second 20-member Hot Shot crew was expected to help burn out
    more areas within the fire lines, McKelvey said.
    A special management team was expected to take over management
    of the McArthur fire Thursday morning. The fire, which began on the
    Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, grew to an estimated
    1,100 acres after spreading late Tuesday afternoon into ponderosa
    and juniper, said Craig Flentie, a spokesman for the Bureau of Land
    Management. No structures were immediately threatened, he said.
    A new fire was reported Wednesday afternoon, 12 miles southwest
    of Jackson.
    The Berry Meadow fire, driven by 30 mph winds, burned 100 acres
    of lodgepole pine in five hours, said Jack de Golia, with the
    Dillon Interagency Dispatch Center.
    The fire is being fought by 15 smoke jumpers from Missoula and
    West Yellowstone and 15 firefighters from the Beaverhead-Deerlodge
    National Forest. An air tanker was dropping retardant on the blaze.
    Another 175 firefighters have been ordered and are expected to
    arrive Thursday.
    Firefighters wrapped three buildings on private land along Berry
    Creek that lie in the path of the fire, which is burning in a very
    remote area. The cause is unknown.
    Meanwhile, crews planned to continue mop-up on the 125-acre
    Johnny Ridge fire, about 20 miles southwest of Ennis. The
    firefighting force was being scaled back on the remote danger
    because the worst seems to be over, said Jack de Golia, a spokesman
    with the Dillon Interagency Dispatch Center.
    Conditions are in line with what officials consider a more
    normal fire season for Montana, with activity picking up in late
    July and fires moving through grasses, state forester Bob
    Harrington said. After a wet spring that helped put a damper on the
    region's extended drought, fire fuels such as trees and grasses are
    drying out.
    "Is there reason to believe this is going to be another 2000 or
    2003? Not really," Harrington said, referring to two very active
    fire years. "Things could change, but the fire season is expected
    to be more normal."
    Still, it's important that people take care with such things as
    where they park their cars and make sure any campfires are out,
    Heppler said.

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    Post July 21st

    By The Associated Press
    Fire crews, aided by a break in strong winds, made gains late
    Wednesday and Thursday in corralling a fire that started on the
    Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge near Lewistown,
    officials said.
    The McArthur fire had not grown overnight, remaining at about
    1,100 acres, but fire information officers said they were concerned
    about forecasts for a return of stronger winds later Thursday.
    The McArthur fire, believed to have started Monday with a
    lightning strike, is one of at least three wildfires burning in the
    state.
    Crews also were working to contain a 5,000-acre blaze, the Big
    Horn Mountain fire, in southeastern Montana. That blaze was burning
    through rugged, tree-lined terrain, grasses and sage. About 200
    firefighters remained on the fire, started by lightning on the Crow
    Indian Reservation. The fire was not threatening any buildings or
    communities.
    "It burned into some areas that needed to be burned in anyway
    to finish this off," said Pat McKelvey, fire information officer
    with the Northern Rockies Incident Management Team.
    On Wednesday, McKelvey said the fire was about 50 percent
    contained, with full containment expected Saturday night. An update
    was not immediately available Thursday.
    A second 20-member Hot Shot crew was expected to help burn out
    more areas within the fire lines, McKelvey said.
    A third fire, the Berry Meadows fire, erupted Wednesday in
    southwestern Montana, about 12 miles from the town of Jackson. The
    fire had burned about 100 acres by Thursday morning. Jack de Golia,
    with the Dillon Interagency Dispatch Center, said authorities had
    closed one area campground to use as an operations base.
    The fire is being fought by 15 smokejumpers from Missoula and
    West Yellowstone and 15 firefighters from the Beaverhead-Deerlodge
    National Forest. An air tanker was dropping retardant on the blaze.
    Firefighters placed protective wrapping on three buildings on
    private land along Berry Creek. The buildings are in the path of
    the fire, which is burning in a remote area. The fire's cause is
    unknown.

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    Post

    HELENA (AP) - Two of the largest fires burning in Montana showed
    little growth Thursday, but two newer fires spread rapidly and two
    small fires drew a quick response, officials said.
    The Berry Meadows fire, burning in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge
    National Forest southwest of Jackson grew from 100 acres to more
    than 500 acres on Thursday, said Jack de Golia, fire information
    officer.
    The acreage includes a spot fire about a mile ahead of the main
    fire.
    More than 200 firefighters are battling the blaze, which is
    burning lodgepole pine and dead, standing trees and snags.
    Firefighters are aided by two helicopters and two air tankers.
    On Friday, firefighters face a red flag warning for high winds
    and low humidity as a cold front is predicted to pass through the
    southern Big Hole Valley.
    Area firefighters are helping protect three cabins on a
    homestead near Berry Creek. Two other occupied buildings on the
    Dooling Ranch, just outside the national forest, are also
    potentially in the fire's path.
    West of Pompeys Pillar, a pickup truck started a grass fire that
    spread to burn more than 1,000 acres.
    Anne Rowe said she and her husband were driving on their land
    when the heat from their pickup's tailpipe started a grass fire. As
    they were heading home for help, they smelled smoke again. When
    they opened the hood of the truck, flames were coming from the
    engine and the interior. The pickup was destroyed.
    Driven by strong, erratic winds, the Vallec fire raced over
    recently cut hay fields and rangeland with scattered timber. Crews
    stopped the eastern edge of the fire a few hundred yards from
    Rowe's ranch house.
    Babete Anderson, information officer for the Custer National
    Forest, said the fire was also being fought by a slurry plane and a
    helicopter.
    On the Crow Indian Reservation, the Big Horn Mountain fire was
    50 percent contained at 5,075 acres, said fire information officer
    Pat McKelvey.
    Crews plan to burn out unburned fuels between the fire and the
    control lines, McKelvey said. Nearly 200 people are working the
    fire, including two Hot Shot crews.
    On the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge, a remapping of the
    McArthur fire shows the area burned to be 930 acres, down from
    Wednesday's estimate of 1,100 acres. The fire was active Thursday,
    but mostly within its borders, officials said.
    Smaller fires were burning near the ghost town of Garnet and in
    the Little Belt Mountains near Neihart, but both drew a lot of
    attention.
    Seven 20-member crews were dispatched to the Berrit Gulch fire,
    which had burned between 50 and 75 acres about a mile from Garnet.
    Winds and dry lightning were predicted for the area, so fire
    officials responded quickly to the human-caused fire.
    "If we get the weather that's predicted, it won't be very
    pretty," said Jamie Rosdahl, an information officer with the
    Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.
    The Johnson Gulch fire south of Neihart remained at 15 acres
    Thursday, but crews were concerned that gusty winds could push the
    fire closer to town. The lightning-caused fire is burning in heavy
    timber about 2 miles from Neihart.
    Between 75 and 80 people are working on the fire, said Jim
    Homison, assistant fire management officer with the Forest Service.

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    Post July 24th

    Wind fans southeastern Montana wildfire

    HELENA (AP) - Crews are still trying to contain a southeastern
    Montana wildfire that grew by about 400 acres this weekend.
    The size of the Big Horn Mountain fire is now estimated at
    58-hundred acres, after wind fanned it yesterday. The fire started
    with a lightning strike, on July 16th.
    Elsewhere in Montana, a 900-acre wildfire about 45 miles
    northeast of Lewistown is burning public land within the Upper
    Missouri River Breaks National Monument. The fire, started by
    lightning Friday, also has burned private land.
    Management of the blaze is to be taken over tomorrow, by a team
    that was on a Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge fire, contained
    yesterday.
    Officials predict the 450-acre Berry Meadows Fire on the
    Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest will be contained Tuesday, if
    the weather holds.

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    Post July 25th

    BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Firefighters fought more mud Monday than
    flames as rain and cooler weather helped quell the Big Horn fire on
    the Crow Indian Reservation about 25 miles southwest of Lodge
    Grass.
    A dangerous fire, however, broke out near Plains, and
    firefighters were pressed to protect houses and businesses through
    the night.
    Officials said the Big Horn fire was considered 95 percent
    contained late Monday and responsibility would be turned over to
    the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Crow Tribe on Tuesday.
    The fire burned an estimated 5,800 acres and has cost $940,000
    to suppress, said Pat McKelvey, fire information officer.
    About 160 people remained on the lines Monday, but their biggest
    battle was against mud after heavy rain fell over the region,
    McKelvey said.
    The fire erupted this past week from a lightning strike and was
    almost fully contained until a weekend thunderstorm pushed it
    across about 400 more acres.
    In western Montana, fire danger worsened and a grass fire burned
    over an estimated 1,000 acres Monday near the Clark Fork River
    valley community of Plains, shifting toward the town by nightfall.
    Dispatchers at the Montana Department of Natural Resources said
    the fire began along Montana Highway 28 southeast of town and moved
    toward Deemer Peak, forcing some evacuations as the fire raced
    past. Then the winds shifted and pushed flames toward the community
    as 10 aircraft were called in to drop water and retardant.
    State officials also announced that heightened fire restrictions
    would become effective in western Montana during the pre-dawn hours
    of Friday, generally involving campfires and smoking.
    Campfires will be allowed only in developed recreation sites or
    campgrounds and only in the metal or concrete fire rings provided
    at those sites, officials said. Smoking also will be prohibited
    except within buildings, vehicles, developed recreation sites or in
    areas cleared of flammable materials.
    State officials say the restrictions apply to all lands outside
    of designated city limits and will remain in effect until there is
    a long-term improvement in the fire danger.
    In north-central Montana, the Knox fire, burning in the Upper
    Missouri River Breaks National Monument and on some private lands,
    was estimated at around 1,800 acres, fire information officer
    Marilyn Krause said. Nearly 170 firefighters were assigned to the
    fire and expected help in gaining the upper hand by cooler,
    overcast conditions, she said.
    Getting crews to the front lines was also an issue, and rainy
    weather could create slick, gooey roads, she said. Already, some
    firefighters were camping nearer the west end of the blaze, which
    is otherwise a 2-hour drive from base camp, she said.
    The Knox fire was started by lightning and burning largely in
    ponderosa and juniper pines, sage brush and prairie, Krause said.
    There was no estimate on containment and no structures threatened.
    The nearly 930-acre McArthur fire, which had burned on the
    Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, was contained and
    being patrolled as an "insurance policy," she said.
    Meanwhile, in southwestern Montana, the Berry Meadows fire,
    burning in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, was estimated
    at nearly 500 acres and 65 percent containment, said Jack de Golia,
    a fire information officer for the Dillon Dispatch Center.
    Containment was expected late Tuesday as long as the weather stayed
    cooperative, he said.
    Three firefighters suffered leg injuries on the blaze Sunday, he
    said.
    No structures were threatened by the fire, about 12 miles
    southwest of Jackson and burning in lodgepole pine. De Golia said
    officials were investigating the cause.

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    Post July 26th

    By BOB ANEZ
    Associated Press Writer
    PLAINS, Mont. (AP) - Hand crews and nearly a dozen aircraft
    narrowly saved this Clark Fork River valley town from a
    wind-whipped wildfire that forced some people to evacuate,
    authorities said Tuesday.
    The 2,150-acre Baker fire raced through dry grass after being
    sparked Monday by a piece of farm equipment and shifted toward the
    town of about 1,100 by nightfall. Erratic winds pushed the blaze to
    within 20 yards of Plains before bulldozers carved a fire line in
    its path. Nobody was hurt and no buildings were lost, incident
    commander Dewey Arnold said.
    "We didn't lose as much as a doghouse," he said. "Dozers were
    the saving grace last night."
    At least 25 homes were threatened Monday night, and officials
    said they did not know how many residents were forced to evacuate.
    All of them had returned home by Tuesday afternoon, Arnold said.
    The blaze on Tuesday was burning away from Plains toward a
    heavily timbered ridge in an area peppered with several homes,
    state Forester Bob Harrington said. None were in immediate danger,
    but Arnold worried that if the fire reached the ridge, "it could
    be up in the trees taking off." Hot, dry weather is forecast later
    this week.
    To date, the fire has cost the state about $1 million to fight,
    Harrington said. About 60 firefighters were on the lines Tuesday
    trying to cut lines around the fire's leading edge and prevent it
    from advancing into a thick forest.
    Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who visited Plains on Tuesday, said he
    was considering mobilizing Montana National Guard soldiers and
    helicopters for additional help if the fire continues to grow.
    "I don't think this is an isolated incident," he said after
    flying over the charred area. "We're into the fire season now."
    On the Crow Indian Reservation, the Big Horn fire remained 95
    percent contained Tuesday and crews turned responsibility for the
    blaze over to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Crow Tribe.
    The fire burned an estimated 5,800 acres and has cost more than
    $1 million to suppress, said Pat McKelvey, fire information
    officer.
    The fire erupted this past week from a lightning strike and was
    almost fully contained until a weekend thunderstorm pushed it
    across about 400 more acres.
    "There's a little bit of heat we're going to still have to work
    on," McKelvey said. "It's raining now up there. We even had snow
    at the helicopter base at top. It's going to be pretty cool, but as
    we warm up the fire is going to heat up again."
    In north-central Montana, the Knox fire, burning in the Upper
    Missouri River Breaks National Monument and on some private lands,
    remained at about 1,800 acres but was now 25 percent contained,
    fire information officer Marilyn Krause said. Nearly 170
    firefighters were assigned to the fire and expected aid from
    cooler, overcast conditions, she said.
    In southwestern Montana, the Berry Meadows fire, burning in the
    Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, was estimated at nearly 500
    acres and 65 percent containment, said Jack de Golia, a fire
    information officer for the Dillon Dispatch Center. Containment was
    expected late Tuesday as long as the weather stayed cooperative, he
    said.
    State officials also announced heightened fire restrictions in
    western Montana to take effect early Friday, generally involving
    campfires and smoking.
    Campfires will be allowed only in developed recreation sites or
    campgrounds and only in the metal or concrete fire rings provided
    at those sites, officials said. Smoking also will be prohibited
    except within buildings, vehicles, developed recreation sites or in
    areas cleared of flammable materials.
    State officials say the restrictions apply to all lands outside
    of designated city limits and will remain in effect until there is
    a long-term improvement in the fire danger.

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    Post July 27th

    By SARAH COOKE
    Associated Press Writer
    HELENA (AP) - Weather continued to work in favor of firefighters
    Wednesday as crews inched closer to corralling the majority of
    Montana's wildfires.
    The state's most active blaze, the Baker fire near Plains,
    remained at 2,150 acres and crews had made good progress digging
    lines and mopping up hot spots. No containment was estimated, but
    low winds and moderate humidity were making it easier for crews to
    keep the fire from several homes on a heavily timbered ridge,
    incident commander Bill Cowin said.
    Some residents of those houses remained evacuated, he said.
    People from at least 25 homes were evacuated Monday night, when the
    blaze crept to within 20 yards of the Clark Fork River valley
    community.
    Officials said the fire would not be considered contained or
    controlled for up to two days.
    Seven hand crews and four helicopters were assigned to the
    blaze, which raced through dry grass after being sparked Monday by
    a piece of farm equipment. No structures have been lost.
    On the Crow Indian Reservation, the Big Horn fire remained 95
    percent contained Wednesday, but crews expected full containment as
    early as Thursday.
    The blaze, sparked this past week by lightning, has burned an
    estimated 5,800 acres and cost more than $1 million to suppress,
    said Pat McKelvey, fire information officer.
    It was nearly contained until a weekend thunderstorm pushed it
    across another 400 acres.
    In north-central Montana, crews gained leverage on the Knox
    fire, burning in the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument
    and on some private lands. The blaze charred more than 1,968 acres
    but was 100 percent contained Wednesday night, fire information
    officer Marilyn Krause said.
    Nearly 180 firefighters used cooler weather and light winds to
    burn 150 acres of vegetation and shore up the fire's southwest
    lines, she said. Crews planned to put out any smoldering debris and
    watch the lines for an anticipated return of gusty winds. The fire
    in the Missouri Breaks 20 miles east of Winifred was started by
    lightning.
    In southwestern Montana, the Berry Meadows fire, burning in the
    Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, also was declared 100 percent
    contained, said Jack de Golia, a fire information officer for the
    Dillon Dispatch Center.
    The Bitterroot National Forest joined state officials Wednesday
    in announcing heightened fire restrictions in Ravalli County
    effective early Friday, involving campfires and smoking. The state
    announced similar restrictions Tuesday in other parts of western
    Montana. Similar restrictions were going into effect in
    north-central Montana.
    Campfires will be allowed only in developed recreation sites or
    campgrounds and only in the metal or concrete fire rings provided
    at those sites under the restrictions, Bitterroot spokeswoman
    Christine Romero said. Smoking also will be prohibited except
    within buildings, vehicles, developed recreation sites or in areas
    cleared of flammable materials.
    "The fire restrictions will remain in effect until there is a
    significant, long-term change in fire danger," Romero said.
    ---
    On the Net:
    National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov
    Northern Rockies Coordination Center:
    http://gacc.nifc.gov/nrcc/index.htm
    Department of Natural Resources and Conservation:
    http://www.dnrc.state.mt.us

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    Post July 31st

    By The Associated Press
    Firefighters Sunday did mop-up work at a fire near Plains, a day
    after containing the blaze, and continued efforts to control one
    burning in the forest southwest of Philipsburg.
    Besides the mop-up at the 2,333-acre Baker fire, crews patrolled
    for hot spots and undertook some work to rehabilitate the land,
    fire information officer Jennifer Thompson said. The number of
    people still assigned to the fire fell to about 80, Thompson said.
    Farm equipment started the fire last Monday. It raced through
    dry grass and for a time threatened to burn into Plains.
    About 25 miles southwest of Philipsburg, some 275 firefighters
    labored on the Frog Pond fire, reported Thursday after lightning.
    On Sunday the estimated size of the fire in the
    Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest remained at 300 acres.
    Managers said crews progressed in digging shallow trenches along
    the western area of the blaze. They also said abundant woody debris
    and dead trees remained a concern in deciding where to place
    firefighters, because the fuels could feed a surge in the fire and
    jeopardize crew safety.
    In northwestern Montana, fire restrictions applicable to
    forested areas outside city limits, regardless of the land's
    ownership, are scheduled to take effect at midnight Wednesday.
    Those rules limit smoking to buildings, developed campgrounds and
    the enclosed areas of vehicles. Restrictions on the location of
    campfires also will be in effect.
    The restrictions do not apply to Glacier National park or to the
    Bob Marshall Wilderness.
    "Over the last several weeks there has been a rash of
    person-caused wildland fires -- preventable fires at that -- so
    acting now before we have a serious problem is a good move," said
    Jeremy Pris, state fire prevention specialist.


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    Post August 1st

    Firefighters tackle western Montana blaze, try to wrap up another
    Eds: PMS
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    By The Associated Press
    Rugged terrain, heavy timber and lightning strikes were
    complicating efforts to fight a 300-acre blaze in western Montana
    that one fire official said had the potential to grow.
    The Frog Pond fire is spotting "all over the place,"
    information officer Pat McKelvey said late Monday.
    There also were two new lightning starts in the area southwest
    of Philipsburg, one that drew the attention of smokejumpers. The
    other was fought by some of the 375 personnel assigned to the Frog
    Pond fire, McKelvey said.
    Tom Heinz, the deputy incident commander on the fire, said
    firefighters caught a break with the weekend weather, but the fire
    spots from the main blaze created the potential for fire to grow
    significantly.
    There has been no structural damage, but officials said some
    unoccupied cabins are located in the area.
    The fire was burning in steep terrain, through firs and
    lodgepole pines and in areas of dense, downed or dead trees, and
    considered just 20 percent contained, McKelvey said.
    In the Flathead and Bitteroot valleys, officials reported dozens
    of new lightning-caused fires in surrounding mountains, the result
    of passing thunderstorms, and more thunderstorm activity was
    reported Monday night.

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    Default August 4th

    ALBERTON, Mont. (AP) - A spate of fires broke out along
    Interstate 90, closing Interstate 90 to all but emergency traffic
    and threatening this Clark Fork River valley community for a time,
    fire officials said.
    The four-lane highway was closed Thursday evening from just west
    of Missoula to St. Regis, just east of Lookout Pass on the
    Montana-Idaho border. It remained closed early Friday with no
    indication of when normal traffic would resume.
    At times Thursday, fires burned on both sides of the highway.
    Officials said they were investigating arson or possibly a
    vehicle dragging something that emitted sparks because there was no
    natural way a dozen fires would break out at once.
    There were no injuries and minimal property damage, but fire
    spokesman Scott Waldron said flames came just "inches away from
    burning" into Alberton.
    He told a news conference that quick response by a massive crew
    of firefighters saved the town.
    Fire cress from Missoula, East Missoula, Frenchtown, Alberton,
    Superior and the Bitterroot Valley community of Sula responded,
    along with retardant planes from Neptune Aviation in Missoula and
    state planes from the Department of Natural Resources and
    Conservation. Crews from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai
    Tribes and Idaho Panhandle National Forest also responded.
    Waldron said there were some evacuations in the area around
    Alberton and fire crews would remain on the fires through the
    night, probably a lot longer. "We've got miles of fire," said the
    fire chief at Frenchtown.
    One fire did burn into Alberton but relatively minor damage was
    reported.
    By dark, firefighters contained all but four of the fires, which
    had burned over a combined area of 250-300 acres. Two of them
    burned together, meaning the effort was focused during the night on
    three separate fires.
    At times Thursday evening, a steady stream of helicopters
    swooped down on the Clark Fork River, filling 500-gallon buckets
    and flying off to hot spots.
    "This absolutely wasn't an act of God," Waldron said.

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    Default August 4th

    By SARAH COOKE
    Associated Press Writer
    HELENA (AP) - Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Thursday declared an
    emergency for wildfire danger because of current bone-dry
    conditions and forecasts for continued hot, dry weather,
    authorizing National Guard pilots to begin training to fight
    wildfires.
    "We will pray for rain and prepare for the worst," he said.
    Department of Natural Resources Director Mary Sexton and Adj.
    Gen. Randy Mosley, who heads the Montana National Guard, requested
    the Guard activation, writing in a memo to Schweitzer that current
    fire and weather conditions "indicate strong potential for
    significant wildfire activity" in the state within the next 60
    days.
    They warned of shortages in "critical resources" like
    helicopters and ground crews in the next week if fire conditions
    continue to worsen, which is expected in the next seven to 10 days.
    Under the first phase of activation, National Guard helicopter
    crews will be trained early next week to fight fires in conjunction
    with regular monthly training, Schweitzer said.
    "The fire season is probably going to be over in the next 50
    days, but those next 50 days are going to be critical. ... We want
    to be ready to respond," Schweitzer said.
    Starting Aug. 12 or later, the Guard's Blackhawk helicopters
    will be made available for initial attacks on wildfires in the
    Helena, Kalispell and Missoula areas, although other areas could be
    added if necessary, said Col. Brad Livingston, Mosley's chief of
    staff. The aircraft will also help with larger fires.
    The Guard helicopters, in compliance with federal law, will be
    deployed only if comparable resources are not available from local,
    state and commercial sources, he said.
    More helicopters, as well as Guard troops and other equipment,
    would be activated if needed, Livingston said.
    "That's when the National Guard would be activated in large
    numbers, providing additional helicopters ... and hand crews, where
    people are trained to go out and fight fires," he said.
    Livingston stressed the callups would be on an as-needed basis
    only.
    Currently, about 1,300 Guard troops and four helicopters are
    available for wildfires and other in-state challenges, he said.
    Another 1,300 of the state's 3,400 Air and Army National Guard
    members are deployed overseas, with the remainder in special
    training or other duties.
    Schweitzer warned of the possibility for a wildfire "blowup"
    earlier this year, and in March asked the National Guard to return
    some of Montana's 1,500 Guard troops and aircraft in Iraq and
    elsewhere for the wildfire season. He claims the Defense Department
    has turned a deaf ear to his request, although military officials
    say no state has been left with less than half of its Guard
    strength and stress that should be enough.
    So far this year, no Guard resources have been used for
    wildfires in Montana or elsewhere in the country, Livingston said.
    More than a dozen small fires were burning around the state
    Thursday, the largest being a 300-acre blaze near Philipsburg that
    was 75 percent contained.
    Firefighters continued to mop up hot spots and work toward
    containment of the lightning-caused Frog Pond fire in southwestern
    Montana's Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.
    "This is a blue-collar operation," incident commander Dave
    Larsen told crews Thursday morning. "There is still lots of work
    to be done finding spots and working on them - nothing glamorous
    about it."
    In the Lolo and Bitterroot national forests, firefighters were
    kept busy with small, lightning-caused fires.
    The National Interagency Fire Center reported 23 large active
    wildfires Thursday, encompassing a total of 177,600 acres. Fires
    were reported in Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho,
    Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington.
    ---
    On the Net:
    National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov/

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    Post August 7th

    ALBERTON, Mont. (AP) - Ten houses in a drainage south of here
    remained under evacuation orders Sunday, as more crews arrived to
    help protect those and other structures threatened by a growing
    complex of fires started along Interstate 90.
    More than 500 firefighters struggled against hot, dry weather
    and high winds Sunday to keep the human-caused fires at bay. One of
    the blazes had crept closer to the homes overnight, but none had
    been lost, fire spokeswoman Elsha Kirby said.
    Several commercial structures and power lines also were
    threatened.
    "The crews are doing structure protection," Kirby said.
    "They've been doing it all night, all through the night and they
    are continuing to do so today."
    The fires, sparked Thursday along Interstate 90 in western
    Montana, had burned about 4,000 acres as of Sunday evening, the
    equivalent of 6 square miles, and were 10 percent contained.
    Authorities did not know how many people were evacuated, but said
    several residents had chosen to stay with their homes.
    A 90-mile stretch of I-90 had been closed by the fires Friday.
    Although all but one lane was reopened by Sunday, authorities were
    considering closing the highway again because of accidents, Kirby
    said.
    At least one firefighter had witnessed a rollover crash in the
    area, she said. Drivers had been told to expect reduced speeds,
    smoke, firefighting equipment and even wildlife along the roadway,
    but many still aren't paying attention, Kirby said.
    "We're worried not just about firefighter safety, but about the
    public driving along and rubbernecking," she said.
    Authorities were considering another highway closure, or further
    reducing speeds.
    Investigators, meanwhile, were still trying to determine the
    cause of the fires. Half a dozen or so law enforcement officers had
    combed the edges of I-90, looking for clues, and had asked the
    public for help.
    Elsewhere, the lighting-caused Prospect fire had quickly burned
    350 acres in the Lolo National Forest near St. Regis and was
    spotting a mile ahead of the main blaze.
    In the Bitterroot National Forest to the south, the Rock Creek
    fire complex grew on Sunday to about 2,500 acres. Control efforts
    included helicopter water drops, although a Type II management team
    was expected to take over on Monday, forest spokeswoman Christine
    Romero said.
    The Kelly Point fire, discovered Saturday near Black Bear Cabin
    in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, was believed to be human caused and
    had grown to an estimated 500 acres, Flathead National Forest
    spokeswoman Denise Germann said.
    The blaze jumped the South Fork Flathead River and was spreading
    east up Hodag Creek drainage. Crews were working to protect the
    Black Bear Cabin, a Forest Service facility used as a summer work
    center.
    The lightning-caused Limestone Peak fire ballooned to about 100
    acres Sunday from just 10 acres the day before. It was burning in a
    remote area of the wilderness area, Germann said.

    (Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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  21. #21
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    Default August 9th evening update

    MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - An air tanker has been assigned to the
    Interstate 90 fires to help protect a major Bonneville Power
    Administration Power line that supplies electricity to the Pacific
    Northwest.
    "This is a high priority fire because of the BPA power lines.
    We have contingency plans to protect that," said fire information
    officer Pat McKelvey. "Part of the contingency plan would be that
    if the fire would make a run toward the power line, the retardant
    would be used to slow the fire growth."
    The West Mountain fire, northwest of Alberton, has burned within
    1.5 miles from the power line in spots, while the Tarkio fire,
    northeast of Tarkio, was about 3 miles from the power line late
    Tuesday and burning vigorously, officials said.
    Nearly 850 people are working on the I-90 fires, which have
    grown to 4,300 acres and are 40 percent contained.
    Several other fires were burning in western and northwestern
    Montana, but none showed significant growth Tuesday. Several
    additional lightning-caused fires were reported throughout the
    region.
    Ten houses in a drainage near the West Mountain fire were
    evacuated over the weekend, but residents are being allowed to come
    and go to check their property and retrieve belongings.
    The Frenchtown volunteer fire department is helping remove fuels
    around the houses, including cutting down some trees, McKelvey
    said.
    Westbound traffic on I-90 remained restricted to one-lane
    through the fire area, but part of a 20-mile portion of the Clark
    Fork river was reopened to boat traffic. Helicopters are using the
    river to fill water buckets.
    "We're throwing everything we have at it," said Bob Sandman,
    incident commander on the I-90 fires. He said there was concern a
    breakout by the Tarkio fire might outrun efforts to stop it. "I'd
    hate to venture at how big this fire will get," he told a nightly
    meeting at Alberton. "We're in a very active firefight as we
    speak."
    Another fire in western Montana, the Prospect fire, was
    estimated at 1,000 acres Tuesday, burning in remote, difficult
    terrain near the I-90 corridor, not far from Superior, with about
    240 people assigned to fight it.
    "It's a messy fire," said fire safety officer Jim Bartlett.
    "We've got limited access, very steep slopes and ratty edges, but
    will continue to be persistent."
    The Prospect fire was started by lightning, while the other two
    fires were human-caused, officials said.
    The Camp 32 fire in the Eureka area of northwestern Montana has
    burned about 900 acres since starting Sunday afternoon on the
    northeast end of Lake Koocanusa.
    A special federal fire fighting is now assigned to the fire, and
    about 350 people were expected to be on the lines soon, although it
    was surrounded by fire lines.
    Firefighters are sleeping and showering at the school in Eureka,
    and are being transported to the fire camp in school buses, said
    Gary Blaz, superintendent of the Lincoln County School District.
    The fire has destroyed one log outbuilding and one piece of
    logging equipment, said Kootenai National Forest spokesman Willie
    Sykes. There were some evacuations, and the American Red Cross
    opened a shelter at a Eureka church.
    In the Bitterroot Valley south of Missoula, officials said
    higher humidity and some rain tempered fires, but updated mapping
    showed the Rockin Complex of fires in a wilderness area west of
    Darby at about 4,300 acres.
    A special team of firefighters from Helena was working along the
    Rock Creek Trail west of Lake Como to keep the fire from crossing
    the Rock Creek drainage to the south, said officials of the
    Bitterroot National Forest.
    On the Flathead National Forest, three fires were burning in the
    Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, including the 3,200-acre Kelly
    Point fire near the South Fork of the Flathead River.

    (Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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  22. #22
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    Post August 10th

    Fire burns under B-P-A powerline, lines shutdown

    HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Gusty winds pushed a wildfire in western
    Montana into Bonneville Power Administration transmission lines
    late tonight, shutting down a major line to the West Coast and
    forcing officials to pull firefighters off the lines.
    Officials said there were no power outages and none expected
    because the B-P-A could reroute the flow of electricity without
    major difficulty.
    Lolo National Forest spokeswoman Sharon Sweeney said the Tarkio
    fire along the Interstate 90 corridor west of Missoula burned
    intensely during the afternoon and evening, gobbling miles of
    forests. But she didn't know how much additional acreage was
    involved. Before the blowout, officials said the leading edge of
    the fire was two miles from the B-P-A lines.
    Fire information officer Tom Rhode said dense smoke made it
    impossible to determine whether the flames reached the lines or
    they tripped shortly after 7 p.m. M-D-T because of the smoke and
    heat.
    He says the Tarkio fire jumped containment lines on its north
    and east flanks and crews were forced to pullback, with officials
    trying to make sure that everyone could be accounted for.

    (Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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  23. #23
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    Post August 21st

    MISSOULA (AP) - Hot, dry weather Saturday caused a flare-up in
    two fires burning in the Bitterroot National Forest, but the
    weather didn't pose a problem for firefighters wrapping up work on
    the Interstate 90 fires.
    The 1,370-acre Signal Rock fire is still too dangerous to fight
    directly, said fire information officer Marilyn Krause.
    The lightning-caused fire, about seven miles south of Skalkaho
    Pass, is burning in a densely forested area and attacking it with
    retardant would be fruitless, she said. There are still no safety
    zones for firefighters and the hot weather is forecast to continue
    Sunday.
    "If the fire continues to spread south, it will burn into the
    old Cougar fire area of 2000 which should slow its spread," said
    Al Harrison, an operations specialist.
    Fire mangers say the size of the Signal Rock fire grew Saturday
    and the acreage will be updated on Sunday.
    The west end of the 3,860-acre Rockin fire, 10 miles northwest
    of Darby, also burned more actively on Saturday. Helicopters and
    ground crews were able to cool down some of the smoldering logs on
    the east end and crews maintained 68 percent containment, said
    Dixie Dies, public affairs officer with the Bitterroot National
    Forest.
    Crews fighting the 3,210-acre Prospect fire in the Lolo National
    Forest south of Superior were concerned about the continued hot,
    dry weather forecast for Sunday.
    "It'll be a heads-up day," said fire information officer
    Maridel Merritt. "Safety is our first concern, so if things get
    too critical, then we just jump back out."
    Four helicopters dumped water on hot spots after a Saturday
    morning flare-up, she said.
    Crews started burnout fires and did other mop-up work, but were
    unable to attack the blaze directly, Merritt said.
    Firefighters continue to leave the lines on the Interstate 90
    fires, as the effort turns to mop-up and rehabilitation.
    "The goal is to continue to ramp down and still leave adequate
    personnel to finish the job," said fire information officer Paula
    Rosenthal.
    The fires, which started near Interstate 90 on Aug. 4 have
    burned 11,000 acres. Crews expect to have them contained by Aug.
    30.
    ---
    Information from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com

    (Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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  24. #24
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    Default 9-1 early update

    By The Associated Press
    Wind helped a northwestern Montana wildfire expand to about
    6,000 acres as crews labored to protect homes and a power line that
    serves a microwave tower.
    The latest estimate of the Seepay 2 fire's size reflects both
    growth of the blaze and some clearing of smoke that hindered
    earlier measurement, information officer Wayne Johnson said
    Wednesday. On Tuesday, the fire east of Plains was estimated at
    3,300 acres.
    Montana 200 was open to traffic Wednesday after smoke a day
    before limited visibility and closed the highway intermittently.
    The fire is about 15 miles east of Plains, on the edge of the
    Flathead Indian Reservation.
    Johnson said there had been no evacuations, but "pre-evacuation
    notices" were issued and "some folks chose to leave and some
    chose to stay." The fire threatened five homes, he said.
    It burned entirely out of control Wednesday. No rain was in the
    weather forecast and firefighters braced for more wind after gusts
    to 30 mph the night before.
    Human activity is believed to have started the fire, and an
    investigation is ongoing, Johnson said. The blaze, reported Sunday,
    was burning trees, brush and grass.
    Besidesme of dead lodgepole pine trees, Johnson said.
    The communications tower was taken off the power grid and was
    operating on a portable generator.
    Nearly 240 people were assigned to the blaze.
    To the south, the 7,600-acre Signal Rock fire in wilderness
    areas of the Bitterroot and Beaverhead-Deerlodge national forests
    was kicking up late Wednesday and forest officials closed the
    entire area around the fire to public access.
    "Safety is a major concern on the Signal Rock fire and in the
    adjacent areas because of the intense and unpredicatable nature of
    the fire ...," officials said in a statement.
    The fire was estimated at just 10 percent contained, and
    firefighters were having difficulty reaching hot spots because of
    the difficult terrain.
    The Copper Creek fire also was burning on the
    Beaverhead-Deerlodge Forest. It was estimated at 70 acres after
    three smaller fires burned together, officials said. Some trail
    closures were reported.
    Winds Wednesday kicked up the 4,800-acre Rockin fire but the
    activity was mostly in the wilderness area. The month-old fire is
    considered just 60 percent contained, officials said.

    (Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

    APTV 08-31-05 2351EDT
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  25. #25
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    Default Sept. 3rd

    HELENA (AP) - Containment of a 7,500-acre wildfire in the Plains
    area rose to 50 percent Saturday after crews benefited from three
    consecutive days of weather that kept smoke close to the ground.
    Firefighters braced for weekend wind with the potential to fan
    the Seepay 2 fire, burning trees, brush and grass on the Flathead
    Indian Reservation.
    The fire and the risk of new burning prompted leaders of the
    Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to close some tribal land
    as hunting season got under way.
    Containment of the fire is expected by Sept. 15. About $2
    million has been spent to fight the blaze, which was reported last
    Sunday, information officer Wayne Johnson said. Nearly 650 people
    have been assigned to the blaze.
    Four miles south of Skalkaho Pass in southwestern Montana, the
    Signal Rock fire grew to about 10,000 acres after being fanned by
    wind and a smoke inversion, fire information officer Terina Mullen
    said. The fire's growth forced crews to retreat on Friday,
    officials said.
    Humidity decreased and temperatures rose on Saturday, but the
    strong winds that had been forecast did not develop. A red-flag
    warning, however, was extended into the Labor Day weekend and roads
    were closed in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest near
    Medicine Lake.
    "That's in the direction that the fire is actually moving, and
    we don't want anyone back there," Mullen said. "It really is
    smoky in the valley and the visibility is not good."
    There is no projected date of containment for the Signal Rock
    fire, burning south of Skalkaho Pass since Aug. 9.

    (Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Last edited by NJFFSA16; 09-06-2005 at 06:13 AM.
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