Lightning-Caused Blazes Hit Montana Crow Reservation Grass Fire Burns 6,000 Acres After Storm

SATURDAY, AUG. 3, 1996

Fire swept across more than 6,000 acres on the Crow Indian Reservation Friday, the biggest in a swarm of lightning-caused fires across Montana.

More thunderstorms were expected Friday night.

The Crow Reservation fire was mostly in grass, and no buildings were threatened, said Rol Parkhurst, manager of the Billings Inter-Agency dispatch center.

“We’ve got about 100 people on it,” he said. “But we’ve got some more serious.”

Two, possibly three fires were discovered Friday in timber on federal land near Ashland, on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, and another in the Judith Mountains, he said.

A Bureau of Land Management dispatcher at Miles City said the Buffalo Creek fire east of Moorehead was at 30 acres and growing, and a fire at Black Eagle by Fort Howe was contained at 15 acres.

Four new fires were under attack in the Helena area, but firefighters had little information about them by mid-afternoon. All were still small, but threatening, said Harlan Coverdell, fire desk dispatcher at the Department of State Lands in Helena.

State and federal agencies sent reconnaissance planes up Friday morning after storms raked across much of western Montana overnight and moved into eastern parts of the state after daylight. They soon began reporting wisps of smoke.

The storms brought only scattered rain, and generally not much of it. Missoula reported .53 inch, Butte .24, Helena .14, Lewistown .18.

A morning rainstorm helped some 50 firefighters quell the Midnight fire about eight miles northwest of Craig, dispatcher Coverdell said in Helena. It burned 200 to 300 acres, mostly grass but including some timber.

“We have no major fires,” Kevin Brown said at the Southwest Montana Coordinating Center in Missoula. “They seem to be getting on everything real quick and keeping them small, and I think the weather’s going to change in our favor.”

Brown said 70 to 80 firefighters were corralling the Fairy Basin II fire that developed overnight on the Flathead Indian Reservation. It burned about 400 acres, mostly grass and sagebrush, overnight, but firefighters had “a pretty good handle on it.”

Fairy Basin, site of another fire earlier in the week, is along Montana 200 between Ravalli and Perma.

Lightning during the night set three smaller fires in the Helena area, and people caused a fourth, he said.

Several fires were reported started by lightning in the Great Falls area, most of them small.

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