Montana, Nevada Wildfires Threaten Homes, Char Hundreds of Acres

Crews battling an enormous wildfire braced for hot, windy weather Monday after hundreds of people were evacuated from the path of the flames.

"We're bracing for the worst again today," Sweetgrass County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Kerry O'Connell said. However, he added, "We feel much better that we got so many people out last night."

The fire in south-central Montana had spread across 180,000 acres, or more than 280 square miles, since it was started by lightning on Aug. 22. It was only about 20 percent contained, authorities said.

Hundreds of residents had just a few hours to pack up last night, before the fast-moving flames closed in. About 265 homes were evacuated in just a few hours Sunday night on the western flank of the fast-moving blaze, O'Connell said.

Fire officials feared that wind and warmer temperatures this week will create extreme fire conditions.

The fire was spreading actively on its southwest side Monday, fire information officer Char Fuller said. Crews were trying to protect buildings, particularly along the western flank.

"They're trying to do operations to protect those structures, but they're not making any guarantees," O'Connell said. "They're just working as hard as they can."

Some ranchers were rounding up cattle in the area. "The way it's been moving, it could go anywhere," rancher Paul Becken said as he moved cattle Sunday. "I've never seen anything like this."

The fire, about 15 miles south of Big Timber, had earlier led to evacuation alerts for dozens of other homes. National Guard troops have staffed roadblocks restricting access to the fire area.

There are no reports of deaths or injuries from the fire, but it's burned up about 50 structures, including more than two dozen homes and cabins, and two bridges.

A series of small thunderstorms sparked more wildland blazes over the Labor Day weekend in fire-scarred northeastern Nevada.

The largest was the 7,000-acre Webb Firein Pine Valley in Eureka County south of Carlin. It was 10 percent contained on Monday.

More resources were being called in to assist the crews and heavy air tankers on the 11-square-mile blaze.

Two other fires in Pine Valley joined into the 500-acre Hay-Well fire, which was 50 percent contained.

Four other fires in the same area were held to 40 acres or less.

In O'Neil Basin, the Deer Creek fire had burned about 150 acres. It was being attacked by smoke jumpers.

The Silver Lake fire in the Owyhee Desert 30 miles south of Owyhee had burned about 1,500 acres and was 10 percent contained.

The Amazon fire eight miles north of Tuscarora had burned 150 acres.

In western Nevada, the August fire north of Stead was contained at 360 acres of grass and brush.

So far this year, 1,001 wildfires have burned 1.15 million acres in Nevada compared with 1.12 million acres in 681 fires at this time a year ago. Both are just under 1,800 square miles -- slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island.