The Heat Is Online

Montana Fire Consumes 6 Square Miles

'Pretty grim' forecast for Montana fire

Dozens have been evacuated from Gates of the Mountains Wilderness area


The Associated Press, July 27, 2007


HELENA, Mont. - Authorities asked residents of more than 60 homes along the Missouri River to leave ahead of a growing wildfire on Thursday.


The fire in the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness had grown from 2,200 acres to 4,050 acres  more than 6 square miles  by Thursday evening.


The evacuations come a day after residents in 30 nearly homes were asked to leave. Those residents initially refused, though most had gone by Thursday afternoon with the fire less than two miles away, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Cheryl Liedle said.


The blaze blew smoke into the Helena area, initially inhibiting accurate acreage estimates, and forced the closure of the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness on the eastern side of the Missouri River.

Jerry Meyer with the U.S. Forest Service said conditions were only expected to worsen with more hot, dry weather in the forecast.


"The outlook is pretty grim," Meyer said.


Meanwhile, a helicopter dropping water on fires in Idaho crash-landed in a marshy area, injuring its two pilots. The helicopter was hired by the Forest Service to make bucket drops on three wildfires burning 60 square miles northeast of McCall. The reason for the crash-landing was not immediately clear.


One of the pilots was treated at a hospital and released while the other was being held for observation, Forest Service spokesman George Broyles said. He declined to identify them or give details of their injuries.


In southern Idaho, rains helped firefighters battle a blaze now totaling 1,014 square miles, or nearly 650,000 acres, fire information officer Gil Knight said.


Two generators restored electricity to all 1,300 residents of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation on Thursday. The community of Shoshone and Paiute Indians on the Idaho-Nevada border was without power for nearly eight days due to wildfires that torched transmission lines and power poles.


In northwestern Montana, crews gained ground on a wildfire that had threatened more than 20 homes southwest of Polson the day before. The 4-square-mile fire was 40 percent contained Thursday evening. It was no longer threatening any homes, but fire managers were concerned Thursday it might spread north to an area of highly valued timber.


In Utah, evacuation orders for several small central Utah communities were lifted Thursday as firefighters worked to gain control of a wildfire near Nephi that's burned more 37 square miles. The fire was 35 percent contained.


Copyright 2007 The Associated Press