Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wind and Lightning Push Wildfires across Montana
Firefighters on Tuesday were unable to hold a blaze that had burned 2,000 acres east of Missoula, but officials said they consider the threat to nearby homes had been reduced.

Crews were putting out hot spots and patrolling the area near the 40 threatened West Riverside homes about seven miles east of Missoula near the convergence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork rivers.

No evacuations have been prearranged and no structures have been damaged. Incident commander Ken Parks said in a statement the coming up threat to the homes has been greatly diminished.

The wildfire had quickly spread from its first reported size of 150 acres to 1,500 acres within hours Monday night.

More than 120 people were fighting the fire. Two 20-person crews were building fire lines all along its western flank, while crews, dozers, engines and helicopters are fighting the fire on the more active eastern flank, the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation said in a statement.

Rachel Peterson, 7, told the Missoulian newspaper that she was playing outside her home when she was worried by a sound. "We were playing Barbies on the porch, and I heard a `poof' like a firework," she said. "Then I saw smoke, and so I said, `Uh-oh, I ought to tell Dad."'

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