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Montana fire officials: Fire resources stretched thin across nation

Posted at 6:39 PM, Aug 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-13 20:39:48-04

HELENA – A cold front that passed through Montana on Aug. 11 sparked several fires across the state, and state firefighting officials say resources are thin because of large fires burning nationwide.

The Northern Rockies Coordination Center indicates four large incident fires were caused by Aug. 11 lightning strikes.  

Those fires are the Wigwam fire southwest of Ennis, Sterling Complex fire south of Eureka, the Shellrock fire north of Helena, and the Virgelle fire east of Loma.

Large incidents are defined as fires which are 100 or more acres in timber, 300 or more acres in grass, or incidents with a Type 1 or 2 incident management team assigned.

The four fires have burned thousands of acres across the state as of Aug.13.

Fire Information Officer Crystal Beckman with the Montana Department of Natural Resources said fire crews were busy last weekend because of the weather.

“Now that the grasses have cured and we’ve had isolated thunderstorms come through, the dry weather has brought more fire activity to Montana,“ said Beckman.

Montana DNRC said current firefighting resources are stretched thin across not only Montana, but the nation right now with many places dependent on mutual aid between federal and local agencies.

The Northern Rockies Coordination Center coordinates the mobilization of resources for wildland fire depending on priority.

“Our partners and our agencies across the Northern Rockies region are really working well to prioritize our resources,” said Beckman. “Those partnerships and corporations are really what is making a difference.”

The public is urged to be extra cautious as hot and dry conditions across the state will continue to strain firefighter efforts.

“The initial attack, we want them freed up so they can help out and be there for new fire starts and not having to respond to a human-caused fire such as a campfire,” said Beckman.

As of Aug.13, 81 aircraft, 49 crews, and 128 engines were committed to fighting fires in the Northern Rockies region.