Firefighters Mop Up After One Blaze, Battle Another in Montana

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.