Wind-Pushed Fires Burning Near Great Falls, Browning, Denton

December 3, 2021

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Fires pushed by strong winds burned east of Browning, south of Great Falls and north of Stanford on Wednesday, leading to some evacuations and temporary road closures, while other areas of Montana reported record high temperatures, officials said.

Browning Public Schools canceled classes Wednesday due to the wind, the fire and a loss of electricity, Superintendent Corrina Guardipee-Hall posted on Facebook. The extent of the outage was unclear.

Tribal offices were also closed and about 100 people in the community of Blackfoot evacuated, with a shelter set up at Browning Middle School, officials said.

The fire burned up to 3/4 of a square mile (2 square kilometers) and its cause was unknown, Carter Gallineaux with Blackfeet Fire Management told the Great Falls Tribune.

The fire, which started at about 4:20 a.m. Wednesday, was declared contained at around 11 a.m., Montana Right Now reported.

South of Great Falls, a fire that was reported at about 2:40 a.m. had destroyed several structures and was threatening others, Cascade County officials said. Some residents were evacuated, and others were warned they may have to leave, the sheriff’s office said.

The sheriff’s office did not know of any injuries on the fire early Wednesday. The cause of the blaze in the Gibson Flats area had not yet been determined.

Downed power lines are believed to have started a grass fire late Tuesday north of Stanford, Fergus County Disaster and Emergency Services posted on social media. The fire was burning in the direction of Denton, but was not threatening the town, officials said.

A high wind warning was in effect along the Rocky Mountain Front on Wednesday, with potential gusts of up to 90 mph (145 kph) in the Browning area and up to 70 mph (113 kph) in the areas around Great Falls and Denton, the National Weather Service said.

Deep Creek, an area southwest of Browning, registered a wind gust of 108 mph (174 kph) just before 6:30 a.m., the weather service said.

Record high temperatures were also reported Wednesday. Great Falls and Helena reached 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 Celsius) by 11 a.m., breaking their old records of 60 F (16 C).

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