3 p.m.: With the help of good weather, crews have made significant progress on fires burning on the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations and officials have lifted all evacuation notices and opened all the roads closed by fire activity.

"We got some precip on the fire this morning and that really helped," said LaDawn Saxton, information officer with BIA Northern Cheyenne Fire and Aviation.

Residents of Lame Deer fled their homes late Thursday night and early Friday morning after the 100,000-acre Chalky fire threatened the town.

The Montana Red Cross opened shelters in Ashland and Hardin on Friday to help those displaced by the evacuations.


2 p.m.: Road closures and evacuations are still in place as crews fight wildfires in Rosebud and Big Horn counties.

As of Friday afternoon, evacuations are still in place in Lame Deer, which emptied last night after the 100,000-acre Chalky fire, blown by strong winds, began approaching the town.

Also under evacuation notice are homes east of Lame Deer to the Ashland Divide and north on Highway 39 to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation border.

Highway 212 is now open from Crow Agency to Broadus. But Highway 39 from Lame Deer north to Colstrip remains closed. 

12:30 p.m.: The Montana Red Cross has opened two shelters in Rosebud and Big Horn counties to help evacuees displaced by the Rosebud Complex and the Sarpy Complex fires.

Crews have set up at the St. Labre Indian School in Ashland and First Congregational Church at 635 Second St. W. in Hardin.

Red Cross volunteers are providing meals, snacks, hygiene supplies and water to those whose homes were evacuated. Residents wishing to donate to the Red Cross can do so by visiting MontanaRedCross.org.



11 a.m.: The Rosebud Complex has grown to a total of 131,000 acres Friday, keeping closed Highway 39 between Lame Deer and Colstrip, and Highway 212 from Lame Deer to Crow Agency.

Early morning rains and cool temperatures were giving firefighters a bit of an edge on the multiple blazes burning on the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations.

"We're getting a big break," said Cindy Super, spokeswoman for the Sarpy Complex.

Officials said they hope to reopen roads Friday afternoon.

9:30 a.m.: The Sarpy Complex near Crow Agency burned 2,500 new acres overnight and has pushed south of Highway 212 just west of where the Bad Horse fire burned a month ago.

The size of the Sarpy Complex, which includes East Sarpy, Little Dry Creek, Dawes, West Tullock Creek, Castle Rock II, and South Tullock Creek fires, has grown to well over 51,000 acres, said spokeswoman Cindy Super.

Many of the fires in the complex have grown together. Highway 212 remains closed between Crow Agency and Busby.

Through the night, all five of the Crow Tribe's initial attack engines along with six other engines, two tribal graders and two tribal bulldozers, a hotshot crew and other specialized equipment battled the fire, Super said.

By 8:30 a.m. Friday light rain was falling in the region. It's not known yet how much it will impact the fires.

8 a.m.: The 100,000-acre Chalky fire in the Rosebud Complex of six blazes continues to burn Friday morning, despite intermittent rain early Friday.

The fire threatened the town of Lame Deer through the night. Fire crews from across the region are racing to the area to support firefighters already on the scene.

Fire officials expect one hot shot crew, six hand crews and 15 strike teams of five engines each to arrive on the fire lines Friday.

"We have a lot of resources headed our direction," said spokeswoman Mariah Leuschen.

Two hot shot crews are already on scene.

Other fires in the complex -- the Beaver fire and the Juniper fire in particular -- have been mostly or completely contained and firefighters will spend the day mopping them up.

The Sweeny fire is active and crews there will spend the day digging lines and working to get it contained. The Sand Creek fire has grown to 750 acres. 


6:30 a.m.: Strong wind gusts overnight pushed a wildfire across Highway 212, forcing evacuations 10 miles east of Crow Agency.

It's unclear how many homes were evacuated early Friday morning, but at least 13 people were camped out at the Exxon gas station at the junction Interstate 90 and Highway 212 with no where to go.

"The winds picked up so fast and were so strong, acres of fire were just rolling towards us," Pam Garza said. "We had no time to get anything out but ourselves."

Garza, her sister Edwina Perez, and three generations of her family didn't receive evacuation orders, they just piled into the their cars, barely escaping the flames.

All at once the winds picked up, clouds of ash blew over and a wall of flames flooded the landscape, Garza said.

"I don't think anyone saw it coming," she said. "We called the forestry people several times and they said we were safe where we were at. The winds just took the fire and it just got way out of control way fast."

They waited for word from Bighorn County officials for possible places to stay Friday night. Family members told them their homes were still standing as of 1:30 a.m.

"It's been hard just sitting here with no where to go and having no idea if everything was gone or not," Perez said. "But at least we're all safe and together that's what what matters." 

5:30 a.m.: Evacuations were ordered for all of Lame Deer and north in Jimtown on Thursday night as the Chalky fire within the Rosebud Complex burned through the area.

Ed Joiner, Northern Cheyenne Tribe Disaster and Emergency Services coordinator, said fire crews were able to keep flames from destroying homes in Lame Deer and the Rosebud Creek area.

"I think we saved all of them," Joiner said Friday. "So far we haven't heard of any losses."

He said erratic winds in the area have frustrated firefighting efforts, but the 50 mph winds that were predicted did not materialize.

He said that the fire jumped Highway 212, which is closed from Crow Agency to Broadus.

He said officials are concerned about other fires in the area, especially a fire northwest of Busby.




Health care reporter for the Billings Gazette.