Fires threaten ranches and homes along Rocky Mountain Front - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Fires threaten ranches and homes along Rocky Mountain Front

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The Strawberry Fire grew quickly on Monday night, but a change in wind direction helped slow that growth on Tuesday.  

The lightning-sparked fire was reported on Aug. 25, and as of Wednesday morning it has burned an estimated 10,537 acres.

On Tuesday, planes dropped retardant and water from nearby Lake Frances, which has been closed for all recreation purposes as firefighting efforts continue. 

Blackfeet officials said on Tuesday that they are working with the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs on both the Strawberry and Crucifixion Creek fires.

Residents of Birch Creek, Dupuyer, and Heart Butte were placed on "pre-evacuation" notice on Tuesday evening, meaning that residents should be prepared to evacuate if the need should arise. Law enforcement officers will notify residents if evacuation becomes necessary. 

Ranchers are working to get their cattle out of the timber and prepping water tanks in case the fire grows again.  

The Apex Angus ranch has around 50 head of cattle unaccounted for and the Swanson family hopes their ranch is spared.

Kirby Swanson said, "I'm afraid our ranch is gonna burn.  I sure hope it don't, but it's coming.  There ain't much we can do about it.  The fire is just a monster. They can't stop it, they can't control it."

There will be two community meetings for people to get information about the fires. The first will be on Wednesday (September 13) at 6 p.m. at the Heart Butte School-Multi-Purpose Room. The second will be on Thursday (September 14)  at 6 p.m. at the Dupuyer Community Hall.

According to Inciweb, the Chief Mountain Hotshots, numerous volunteer fire departments, the Department of Natural Resources, the Blackfeet Tribal Agency, Pondera and Teton County resources, and ranchers teamed together in stopping the fire’s progress, and noted: "We also had great aviation support throughout the day. In total there were 4 tanker and 2 very large tanker (VLAT) drops of retardant combined with 14 water drops from the superscooper, and numerous water drops from a variety of rotary winged aircraft. There were no injuries and no structures lost."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced on Tuesday that a Fire Management Assistance Grant has been approved for the Strawberry Fire, which makes federal funding available to pay 75% of the state's eligible firefighting costs and helps with equipment and supplies.

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