Another Montana wildfire claims two homes near Columbus

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Pine Crest Fire, InciWeb
Pine Crest Fire, InciWeb

The Pine Crest wildfire near Columbus, Montana burned two homes this weekend and forced dozens of residents to evacuate, the Billings-Gazette reported on Sunday.

The fire started around 1 p.m. on Saturday five miles west of Columbus, which is west of Billings. As of Monday morning it had burned 3,000 acres and was 10 percent contained on Sunday night. Three helicopters fought the fire along with 98 firefighters, according to the Billings-Gazette. InciWeb reports show that one firefighter was injured.

A subdivision was expected to remain on evacuation until Monday morning, when the Columbus Fire Department planned to host a public meeting. The fire’s cause is still under investigation, according to InciWeb.

Another Montana fire near Red Lodge briefly shut down a local ski area on Saturday. The West Fork fire was 20 percent contained at 400 acres as of Saturday night. In a post on its Facebook page, Red Lodge Fire Rescue said the fire ignited when a days-old controlled burn rekindled.

Snowpack in south-central Montana is below average, hovering around 89 percent of normal, according to the latest reports from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. In the National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook released for March through June, Montana was not expected to have an above-average early fire season.

“The periods of warm chinook flow during this time melted snow accumulations over all but the highest elevations east of the Continental Divide in Montana, and dried fine fuels enough to allow sporadic grass and brush fire activity,” the report said. “This is not an unusual occurrence as these warm dry periods in winter occur most years to some degree.”


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