Emergency official: Billings landowner acted quickly to help suppress grassland fire

Posted at 4:24 PM, Aug 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-02 18:24:27-04

BILLINGS – The quick actions of a Yellowstone County landowner early Thursday morning helped firefighters gain the upper hand of a grass fire south of Shorey Road off Highway 3.

"One of the local landowners, Steve Selmer… jumped in a large tractor with a disc and was able to cut a fire line to the south of the fire, which was a huge, huge bonus to knock that down and have little bit of a barrier while firefighters were trying to set up and start suppression," said Yellowstone County interim DES coordinator Lt. Kent O’Donnell.

Firefighters responded to the call just after 4 a.m.

Fuego Volunteer Fire Company was the first to respond, as the fire was in their area, but they quickly put out a call for help as the fire grew. Firefighters from Billings, Lockwood and Laurel joined forces with personnel from Molt, Blue Creek, Shepherd and Worden to form the 40-50 man crew that fought the blaze.

Even with all hands on deck the landowner himself might have played one of the largest roles in containing the fire.

A line of storms produced lightning to the west of Billings that would have been over the area at the time of the fire’s origin. And, according to county DES, all indications point to a dry lightning strike as the cause of the blaze.

By 9 a.m., the fire was largely contained. Montana Department of Natural Resources surveyors mapped the burned area at roughly 325 acres.

According to O’Donnell, this is likely just the beginning of fire season in this part of the state as vegetation from our dry spring continues to dry out. He said he believes that fire restrictions will be put in place across the state in the coming days.