Montana fire more than doubles

Montana fire more than doubles

1 September 2006

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Big Timber, MT., USA — A fast-expanding wildfire in south-central Montana has more than doubled in size to an estimated 100,000-plus acres and burned an unknown number of structures, officials said Thursday.

Authorities issued evacuation orders Wednesday for an area that included about 250 homes in two counties, said Pat Cross, an information officer for the team of federal, state and local agencies battling the blaze.

The Derby Mountain fire was estimated at more than 100,000 acres, or the equivalent of about 156 square miles, early Thursday — more than double its size Wednesday morning.

“We know that there were structures lost. We don’t know how many or whether they’re residences or outbuildings,” said fire information officer Dixie Dees. “The area’s so big that we are trying to get that assessment.”

Dees said the wind continued to gust to about 20 mph Thursday morning.

Sweet Grass County ordered residents around the small town of Absarokee to evacuate as the fire approached, but it was not clear how many had left.

Some residents had started packing valuables when the fire started.

Becky Chenault, who lives near Absarokee, said she packed her legal documents and photos last week. By Wednesday, she was grabbing whatever came to mind.

“Anything I can throw in the back of my truck,” she told The Billings Gazette. “We’re just mindlessly doing it now.”

Meanwhile, firefighters in Southern California made progress Thursday in battling a 2,000-acre wildfire east of Los Angeles that was sparked by illegal target shooting.

About 1,230 firefighters took advantage of mild winds and an increase in humidity overnight by building lines and setting backfires in the San Bernardino National Forest.

The blaze, dubbed the Emerald Fire, was 60 percent contained Thursday morning, with full containment predicted for 6 p.m. Friday. Since breaking out Tuesday afternoon, the fire has scorched the equivalent of 3 square miles and destroyed two homes and two outbuildings.

A mandatory evacuation remained in place for Mountain Home Village, although fire officials said the tiny community was not in immediate danger.


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