The Red Flag Warning for Tuesday proved not to be a false alarm, as early season wildfires burned yesterday in Montana, Colorado, and South Dakota.
These two photos are of a fire that burned approximately 300 acres in Larimer County, Colorado (map) near Fort Collins. A relative humidity of 9% and winds gusting up to 25 mph challenged firefighters who successfully protected homes in the area.
In Montana, a firefighter was injured Wednesday morning when a water tender rolled over at 7:45 a.m. on Ryan Dam Road near Great Falls. The firefighter was transported to a hospital by helicopter. The extent of the injuries was not immediately known. The now contained fire, which started Tuesday afternoon, burned about 7,000 acres but stalled at the Missouri River. Reports are that strong winds broke a power pole, starting the fire. Another firefighter was treated at a hospital for smoke inhalation.
On Tuesday, winds gusting up to 50 mph created dust storms, snapped power poles, and pushed several fires in the north-central and south-central parts of Montana.
A fire in Blaine and Hill counties between Havre (map) and Chinook, Montana burned between 5,000 and 7,000 acres before it was contained by the firefighters on the 40 engines that responded.
Another fire north of Great Falls forced the evacuation of approximately 200 people, and smoke from the fire contributed to two multiple car accidents on U.S. Highway 87 which involved a total of 11 vehicles.
Here is an excerpt from an article in the Great Falls Tribune:
James Tilman, a FedEx Ground driver who runs a route to Havre and back each day, came through the area at its worst.
He said the wind was blowing so fiercely that it nearly tipped over his delivery vehicle.
He pulled over when a Montana Highway Patrol vehicle came through with its lights flashing.
He said he saw a vehicle that had its front end crushed in up to the windshield and a pickup out in the field. He also saw another wreck on the other side of the road.
While he was pulled over, a car slowed down and was rear-ended by another vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed, according to Tilman. That created a domino effect involving multiple vehicles, he said.
The Mountain fire near Elk Mountain west of Custer started at 6:15 p.m. on Tuesday and burned about 30 acres of private land. The fire is contained and is being mopped up by three engines today, according to Beth Hermanson, spokesperson for the South Dakota Division of Wildland Fire Suppression.
The Skyline fire east of Custer off Highway 16a burned 1/4 acre and destroyed a shed.
A third fire fire southwest of Interior burned about 20 acres. According to the Rapid City Journal it started from an escaped controlled burn on private land.
In the South Dakota Black Hills a single-engine air tanker, an air attack platform, and a National Guard Blackhawk helicopter are available during this period of high fire danger.
Thanks go out to LM, Christian, and Al