Firefighters are gaining ground on the Lame Deer and Richard Spring fires in southeastern Montana, which they now say were caused by heat from coal seams.
The 170,838-acre Richard Spring fire is now 53 percent contained, while the 5,427-acre Lame Deer fire is now 46 percent contained, fire managers said in a Saturday release.
The fires have 340 people working on them, and 12 out buildings have been lost.
Firefighters have built a control line along the entire Lame Deer fire and are patroling for mop ups.
Most of their efforts are devoted to the southern edge of the Richard Spring fire, which is near the town of Lame Deer. Efforts are still being made to contain the fire north of the Lame Deer Divide Road. Crews conducted additional burnout operations last night along Highway 212 and will mop up and secure today. Aerial resources (including both helicopter water drops and airplane retardant drops) continue to support that effort on the ground.
Active fire behavior is expected to increase over the next few days as temperatures rise, fuel dries out and humidity levels fall, according to fire managers.
Rosebud County Fire Warden and Rosebud County Sheriff have downgraded the evacuation status for the community of Ashland, including the Ashland Divide, Rabbit Town, North Tongue River Road, and the St. Labre Indian Academy Campus, from Level 3 “Go Now” stage to a Level 1 “Be Ready” stage.
The communities of Lame Deer, Muddy Cluster, and Rosebud Cut Across remain in Level 3 “Go Now” stage. Pre-evacuation notices are in effect for Rosebud Creek from Greenleaf Creek to Cherry Creek and the Lame Deer Divide Road located on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation south of Lame Deer.
Highway 212 is currently closed between Broadus and Crow Agency to all non-residents. Highway 39 is currently open, but this could change at any time due to potential for changing conditions.
Evacuation centers are set up at the Northern Cheyenne Tribal School in Busby and the Multi-Purpose Building in Crow Agency. A Red Cross shelter at Broadus Elementary School is on standby but not currently open. The Colstrip Saddle Club can take horses. Visit the Rosebud County Disaster and Emergency Facebook page for additional evacuation location information.