Archive for January 5th, 2012

An update on the Blackfeet Reservation wild fires that ripped through the area Wednesday night from Missoulian.com:

BROWNING – Two wildfires on Montana’s Blackfeet Indian Reservation burned thousands of acres, forced scores to evacuate and destroyed several buildings overnight, but rain helped firefighters and volunteers get a handle on the blazes on Thursday.

Fueled by strong winds and gusts above 60 mph, the two blazes started around sundown Wednesday and together grew to 16,000 acres by early Thursday, a revision of an earlier estimate of 45,000 acres, said tribal spokesman Wayne Smith. At least 300 people were forced to leave their homes and a boarding school, though no injuries had been reported.

Rain fell at 5 a.m., helping crews gain the upper hand on the fires, which were 75 percent and 80 percent contained by midmorning, said fire manager Tyson Runningwolf.

“That’s a good sign,” he said. “What’s caused the reduction was the big workforce on the fires. We were able to get a hold of it.”

At least 80 firefighters and volunteers from the tribe, neighboring counties and several federal agencies responded to the fire, Runningwolf said. They were assisted by farmers and ranchers whose land stood in the path of the fires.

Crews were helped by Thursday morning’s weather conditions, as the wind died down to 15 mph a cold front raised the relative humidity to 70 percent, said National Weather Service Meteorologist Ben Schott.

The wind was expected to pick up again later Thursday, leaving fire officials wary.

“Fire is so unpredictable, I wouldn’t say we’re totally out of the woods yet,” Smith said.

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5
Jan

Grass fires erupt on Blackfeet Reservation

   Posted by: admin    in Blackfeet

Firefighters are on their way to containing several grass fires that ripped through the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in northwestern Montana Wednesday night.

Multiple fires light the horizon near the town of Browning, as seen from home of Darrell Norman and Angelika Harden-Norman about 2 1/4 miles from town. (PHOTO COURTESY ANGELIKA HARDEN-NORMAN, via the Great Falls Tribune)


It was a terrifying night for many there, as evacuations disrupted the town throughout the evening.

The Missoulian website has the latest Thursday morning from Browning:

    Blackfeet tribe officials say firefighters are starting to get a handle on two wind-fueled fires that have burned buildings and forced evacuations on the northwestern Montana reservation.

    The fires started Wednesday evening and quickly spread to 45,000 acres overnight, fueled by wind gusts greater than 70 miles per hour. At least 300 people were forced from their homes, though no injuries were reported.

The Great Falls Tribune reported from the fires last night:

    “This is probably the worst grassfire that we’ve ever experienced in our history,” Wayne Smith said.

    As of 10 p.m. Wednesday, the worst of the fires were two separate blazes that had grown to a combined size of 10,000 acres — and were still growing — Smith said.

    . . .

    ribal police were moving ahead of the flames to evacuate homes in the fires’ path. The Hutterite colonies of Seville and Hidden Lake near Cut Bank also were evacuated, Smith said.

    He added that no injuries had been reported as of late Wednesday, but some structures had been consumed by the fires.

    “The fires just got out of control,” he said. “It’s been spreading at a rapid pace.”

    The Montana Department of Transportation closed Highway 2 from the Highway 89 junction in Browning to Cut Bank because of the nearby fires.

Jenna Cederberg

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