Wind-driven fires force evacuations and burn houses in Montana | Montana News

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) – Hundreds of people in the town of Denton were forced to flee flames driven by high winds in central Montana on Wednesday, while a fire south of the town of Great Falls burned 11 homes as well as sheds and other small buildings, officials mentioned.

Downed power lines are believed to be the cause of a fire that started north of Stanford on Tuesday evening and spread to Denton early Wednesday afternoon. Authorities said some structures in the city had caught fire, but it was not immediately clear how many.

The Fergus County Sheriff’s Office has evacuated the approximately 300 residents of Denton and the Red Cross has set up a shelter at the Civic Center in Lewistown. Denton schools reported evacuating students around 1:30 p.m.

The size of the blaze was not available, officials said.

South of Great Falls, a fire that was reported at around 2:40 a.m. was pushed so quickly by high winds that it blew up over some patches of grass as it expanded to burn 112 acres ( 46 hectares), Jeremy Jones, Great Falls Fire Chief. noted.

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“At this point, we’ve lost 11 homes, seven garages and 11 outbuildings,” Jones told the Great Falls Tribune. “It doesn’t even begin to count vehicles and things of that nature.”

About 65 people evacuated. No injuries were reported. The cause of the fire has not been determined.

Near Glacier National Park, Browning Public Schools canceled classes Wednesday due to wind, fire east of town and a power outage, Superintendent Corrina Guardipee-Hall said on Facebook.

Tribal offices were also closed and around 100 people from the Blackfoot community were evacuated, with shelter set up at Browning Middle School, officials said.

About 1,300 homes in Browning and surrounding communities lost power at one point due to wind blowing trees against power lines, said Jonnalea Tatsey, member services manager for Glacier Electric Cooperative. The longest outage lasted around six hours, she said.

The fire burned up to 3/4 of a square mile (2 square kilometers) and its cause was unknown, Carter Gallineaux of Blackfeet Fire Management told the Great Falls Tribune.

“We haven’t had significant humidity for nine months. Everything is really dry. We have been in a “red flag” for seven days. Usually we have snow on the ground. Last September we had snow. Now it’s December and no snow, ”said Gallineaux.

The blaze started around 4:20 a.m. and was declared under control around 11 a.m., Montana Right Now reported.

A strong wind warning was in effect along the Rocky Mountain front on Wednesday, with potential gusts of up to 90 mph (145 km / h) in the Browning area and up to 70 mph (113 km / h) ) in areas around Great Falls and Denton, the National Weather Service said.

Deep Creek, an area southwest of Browning, recorded a wind gust of 108 mph (174 km / h) just before 6:30 a.m., the weather service said.

Record temperatures in the 60s and 70s were reported statewide on Wednesday.

By 3 p.m. Jordan had reached 76 degrees Fahrenheit (24 Celsius), Helena’s maximum was 69 F (21 C) and Le Havre had reached 68 F (20 C), the National Weather Service reported. Missoula and Kalispell hit all-time highs for the month of December with temperatures exceeding 60 F (16 C).

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