September 4, 2005 in City

Montana blaze is 50 percent contained

Associated Press

Containment of a 7,500-acre wildfire in the Plains, Mont., area rose to 50 percent Saturday after crews benefited from three consecutive days of weather that kept smoke close to the ground.

Firefighters braced for weekend wind with the potential to fan the Seepay 2 fire, burning trees, brush and grass on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

The fire and the risk of new burning prompted leaders of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to close some tribal land as hunting season got under way.

Containment of the fire is expected by Sept. 15. About $2 million has been spent to fight the blaze, which was reported last Sunday, information officer Wayne Johnson said. Nearly 650 people have been assigned to the blaze.

Four miles south of Skalkaho Pass in southwestern Montana, the Signal Rock fire grew to about 10,000 acres after being fanned by wind and a smoke inversion, fire information officer Terina Mullen said. The fire’s growth forced crews to retreat on Friday, officials said.

At least two new fires were burning in south-central Idaho, with one spreading to as many as 2,000 acres in the wilderness region near Stanley and another threatening up to 50 structures built near the old mining town of Idaho City.

Information about the fire near Stanley on the Sawtooth National Forest was limited, as calls to fire information officers in the region weren’t immediately returned.

Chris Miller, a dispatcher with the Boise National Forest, said fire officials were sending one of their most experienced crews to manage containment efforts on that blaze. Some tanker aircraft had been diverted from the Idaho City fire to help.

Near Idaho City, the blaze in the Sawmill Creek area about two miles west of the rustic seat of Boise County had spread to about 150 acres by Saturday evening. A person keeping vigil at the Sunset Mountain Lookout about 12 miles south of Lowman, as well as members of the public who were in the region, spotted smoke from the fire about 1 p.m., Miller said.

“There’s a lot of slash piles there, heavy fuels. It’s really dry out, and we haven’t had rain in two and a half months,” said Miller, adding that no structures have been damaged.

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