One Home Lost to Wildfire in Western Montana

July 24, 2006

A wildfire in western Montana destroyed a house and two outbuildings, a U.S. Forest Service official said Saturday.

The fire, which has scorched about 4 square miles, is one of five large blazes in Montana, according to the National Fire Information Center. Twelve states, almost all of them in the western U.S., are still reporting large wildfires, the center said.

Firefighting crews, four helicopters and 10 fire engines fought the fire about 35 miles east of Missoula Saturday in temperatures that approached 100 degrees. They protected 10 homes and other structures from the flames, said Wayne Johnson, an information officer with the firefighting team.

Elsewhere in Montana, most of the large fires in the central and eastern part of the state had been contained, which means they were surrounded by defensive fire lines and not spreading.

In Southern California, firefighters battled a 447-acre blaze in the Cajon Pass that clogged traffic on a major freeway. The fire near Interstate 15 prompted the evacuation of two ranches and burned several uninhabited structures, said San Bernardino National Forest spokeswoman Robin Prince.

The fire, which burned more than two-thirds of a square mile, was 50 percent contained. The cause is under investigation.

Utah’s largest wildfire — which burned 45 square miles in the Fishlake National Forest — was 75 percent contained Saturday, but hot spots could delay a plan for full containment by Sunday.

A reconnaissance flight over the fire north of Millard County’s Cove Fort showed 261 hot spots, which could flare up in the expected high temperatures and winds, fire information officer Dave Chevalier said.

“It’s going to be hotter and windy and that’s not good,” he said

Firefighters were building a containment line along the east side of the blaze, while air tankers and helicopters douse the fire with water and retardant.

Meanwhile, the Twin Peaks fire which has burned about 16 square miles of grass and sagebrush 10 miles west of Kanosh, Utah, was 70 percent contained. Full containment is expected Sunday, fire officials said.

In northeast Minnesota, officials reopened Sea Gull Lake nearly a week after a wildfire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area forced its closure. The wildfire that began with a lightning strike July 14 had burned more than 44.5 square miles, but hadn’t changed in size in recent days, officials said.

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