Montana fires ripping under red flag conditions

19 Mile Fire

Firefighters struggled yesterday in fighting Montana wildfires that have burned homes and caused injuries. One new fire was reported south of Ashland, and two others erupted in Gallatin Canyon south of Bozeman. One of the Gallatin Canyon fires was contained by late afternoon. The 19 Mile Fire is about 2 percent contained at 4,000 acres; it’s southeast of Butte, south of I-90 and north of Highway 2. Firefighters are working on structure protection in the Whiskey Gulch area.

19 Mile Fire
The 19 Mile fire torched this and other residences on Thursday. Photo by Steve DiGiovanna, Madison County Disaster & Emergency Services.

According to an AP report, a new wildfire in Paradise Valley near Yellowstone National Park took off Wednesday and resulted in minor injuries to firefighters and members of the public. The Pine Creek Fire caught residents unaware; they were forced to flee the village of Pine Creek, south of Livingston, without packing any bags. Park County Commissioner Marty Malone said about 200 people live in the area and that some tried to fight the fire themselves, including a man who turned a hose on the flames until the power to an electric water pump was cut off by the fire and the water stopped running.

The fire’s now at 12,000 acres with zero containment; a red flag warning is in effect through Saturday. There are approximately 150 personnel assigned, including two hotshot crews, nine engines, two water tenders, two dozers, and four helicopters. Additional resources will be arriving throughout the day.

Pine Creek Fire Map
Pine Creek Fire Map 08/30/2012 @ 9 a.m.

Some residents have been allowed back to their homes. East River Road is closed from the north junction at highway 89 down to just south of Barney Creek. Pine Creek Road is also closed. Areas that are still closed to all residents are those that live on Deep Creek Road, Deep Creek Bench Road, and Deep Creek Road South Fork. The area from Pool Creek down south to Barney Creek is closed to all residents, and also along Pine Creek Road.

High temperatures and erratic winds have pushed the fires through drought-dry fuels. With nine large fires burning in Montana, officials said there was increasing competition for adequate equipment and personnel. “We are making do with what we can get,” said U.S. Forest Service information officer Karen Tuscano.

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