Montana Grass Fire Grows to 30,000 Acres

August 29, 2008

A wildfire burning through grasslands north of Billings spread to an estimated 30,000 acres and threatened at least 13 structures, including nine homes, officials said.

Firefighters thought they had contained the Dunn Mountain fire to just 600 acres earlier this week before 20 to 30 mph winds pushed the blaze over fire lines, said Larry Elder with the Bureau of Land Management’s Interagency Dispatch Center.

“It was off and running at that time,” Elder said, adding that there were no reports yet of any structures burned.

The fire was started Friday by a lightning strike in the Bull Mountains, about 40 miles northeast of Billings.

Its rapid advance prompted fire crews to halt efforts to put out the blaze so they could protect the ranch houses. Elder said more wind and warmer temperatures forecast for Thursday could further hobble firefighting efforts.

“We do have aerial resources, but it’s too windy to fly them,” Elder said. “Basically what they’re doing now is firefighter safety, structure protection. Suppression is taking a step aside to make sure everybody’s safe.”

Chris Tincher, a fire information officer, said the CA Road just north of the Shepherd Ah Nei recreational site is open only to nearby residents and emergency crews.

The fire front moved east and southeast an estimated 15 miles Wednesday. It was about 10 miles north of Pompeys Pillar National Monument by evening, burning through grass and wooded draws. The fire would have to jump the Yellowstone River to reach the monument.

In some areas, the fire was fueled by felled trees killed in another wildland fire two decades ago, Elder said.

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