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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Pacific NW

Montana blaze eases up

Associated Press

Cool, calm weather Thursday allowed firefighting crews to contain 40 percent of the Seepay 2 fire burning along the southern portion of the Flathead Indian Reservation, although forecasts for hot and dry weather through the weekend raised concerns, fire officials said late Thursday.

The fire was estimated at 6,000 acres.

Rick Janssen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes said containment was expected in about two weeks.

Some 340 people were on the fire, and Janssen said about 120 more were expected Friday.

A spot fire that erupted south of the main fire late Wednesday joined the main fire Thursday as air tankers dropped retardant to slow its spread, officials said.

No residences have been ordered evacuated and no buildings have been threatened in an area about 15 miles east of Plains and 15 miles west of Dixon.

Janssen said Montana 200 remained open but travelers were asked to keep to the posted speed limit of 35 mph because of heavy smoke, and a fire restriction for aircraft of five miles around the Seepay 2 fire remained in effect.

The relatively cool weather and an absence of wind helped firefighters as they dug more lines along the blaze and prepared to ignite some areas to reduce fire fuels, said information officer Wayne Johnson.

“We have some favorable weather conditions, so they’re going to attack aggressively,” he said.

The fire broke out Sunday and is believed to have been caused by human activity, Johnson said.

To the south, above the Bitterroot Valley, the month-old Signal Rock fire was approaching 8,000 acres in a wilderness region, and public use of an area east and south of the Skalkaho Highway was prohibited.

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