Montana firefighters expecting high winds

A red flag warning is in effect this afternoon through tomorrow, with a dry cold front predicted to bring strong gusty winds from the northwest at 20 mph with gusts up to 40 mph. Firefighters on the 20,000-acre East Sarpy Fire east of Billings, Montana, will focus on structure protection instead of building fireline. The fire area is not heavily populated, but it includes some ranch homesteads and the Westmoreland Sarpy Creek coal mine.

[UPDATE: The Sarpy Hill Complex is estimated at 51,000 acres this afternoon.]

 

East Sarpy Fire at noon 08/01/2012
East Sarpy Fire at noon 08/01/2012

Portions of the fire over the last two days have jumped dozer lines. “Everything we tried didn’t work,” said a veteran helicopter manager. An additional five crews will work on the fire today, along with 20 more engines. Crow tribal engines worked through the night, along with Big Horn County Rural Fire resources, dozers, graders, water tenders, and local ranchers. A Type 2 team will take over the fire today.

The East Sarpy and West Tullock Creek fires burned together late yesterday, and the Dawes Fire burned actively all night. East of Dunmore, residents could see the glow of the Little Dry Creek fire, which is a priority today.

Three other fires recently burned more than 15,000 acres north of Winnett. Crews have contained the Wolf Creek, 15-Mile, and Dovetail lightning-caused fires earlier this week. To the east, Rosebud County crews are working on 28 fires burning in the county. Carole Raymond, Rosebud County’s disaster and emergency services coordinator, told the Billings Gazette that the largest of the fires is burning between Rosebud and Butte creeks.

“That’s the biggest one and they don’t have it even kind of handled,” she said. “It’s just running on them.”