Firefighters Battle Two Montana Wildfires

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MISSOULA, Mont., Aug. 25 (UPI) — Firefighters battling two wildfires in Montana in hot, dry conditions say they’ve contained part of one while the other, a larger fire, has slowed.

Calm weather Wednesday allowed crews working the 2,000-acre West Riverside fire that threatened more than 40 homes to corral the northeast flank of the blaze, The Missoulian reported.

Ground crews spent the day digging and burning out a strong line to protect a major power and communications line north of the main fire perimeter, the newspaper said.

The spread of the 19,000-acre Saddle fire southwest of Painted Rocks State Park on the Montana/Idaho line slowed, officials said.

Bitterroot National Forest Fire Management Officer Rick Floch said the fire, which was still zero-percent contained, had grown.

“Basically, the fire grew by 1,000 acres today, and that was from spot fires out in front of the fire from the wind event, starting to burn around themselves and joining the main fire,” Floch told the Ravalli (Mont.) Republic late Wednesday.

Low visibility from smoke was forcing firefighters to remain extremely cautious about venturing into mountainous terrain to battle the blaze, he said.

“It’s steep country, tough to get to. The firefighters can only see a couple hundred yards at most,” he said. “It’s really smoky. The lookouts can’t look into it any more, so it’s impossible for them to judge the size of the fire accurately.”

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