Montana wildfires burn homes, cause injuries

Topics: From the Wires,

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Rapidly expanding wildfires across a broad swath of southern Montana have caused injuries and burned homes, buildings and vehicles, authorities said Thursday, as firefighters struggled to contain the flames amid hazardous conditions.

The precise toll of the latest spate of fires to hit the state remained uncertain. But there were well over 150 homes threatened by blazes that in some cases burned unchecked.

High temperatures and erratic winds were forecast to make the fight more difficult. And with at least nine large fires burning in Montana, officials said there was increasing competition for adequate equipment and personnel.

“I don’t know what we’re going to have for resources quite yet,” said Karen Tuscano of the U.S. Forest Service. “Everybody’s competing for resources around here. We hope for everything but take what we can get.”

Tuscano was responding to a new wildfire south of Livingston, in the Paradise Valley near Yellowstone National Park. The Pine Creek Fire that ignited Wednesday resulted in minor injuries to firefighters and members of the public, the Park County sheriff’s office said.

An evacuation was in place for the small town of Pine Creek and surrounding areas. The fire burned multiple houses and buildings — and was threatening others — but a precise number was not available.

The size of the fire was reported Wednesday night at about 4 square miles, just hours after it started on private land along the Yellowstone River due to an undetermined cause.

A resident who failed to heed an evacuation on a fire south of Butte was taken away by ambulance after suffering second degree burns to his hands and arms, said Forest Service spokeswoman Mariah Leuschen. That blaze, the 19 Mile Fire, has burned more than 4 square miles and at least nine structures, including two houses.

An estimated 100 houses were threatened by the fire. Residents were being allowed back in with escorts Thursday to check on the condition of their property.

To the east, evacuations remained in effect for an estimated 20 residences and summer houses burning on the northeast front of the Beartooth Mountains near the town of Roscoe. The Rosebud Fire was reported at 20 percent contained Thursday morning.

South of Bozeman, officials said six houses and 20 commercial buildings and outbuildings were threatened by the Millie Fire, which exploded from less than 1 square mile to more than 15 square miles from Wednesday to Thursday. The fire was uncontained Thursday.

Wildfires were burning in at least six other western states, including a blaze in Wyoming’s Teton Wilderness that has scorched 19 square miles after making a big run Wednesday.

The fire spread away from an area with summer cabins, though, and fire officials said it may burn itself out within the next several days.

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