Fire crews gain on Rosebud, Delphia fires

2012-08-30T07:04:00Z 2012-08-31T09:37:07Z Fire crews gain on Rosebud, Delphia firesThe Associated Press The Associated Press

3:10 p.m.: Cooler weather and lighter winds helped fire crews keep the Rosebud and Delphia fires from gaining any ground Thursday.

Some resources on both fires are being sent to other fires where they are needed more.

Jeff Gildehaus, spokesman for the Rosebud fire team, said the fire saw "no growth whatsoever. Our fire seems to be behaving itself pretty well."

Pat McKelvey on the Delphia fire said fire crews continue to make sure the interior of the fire stays cool and are doing rehab where possible.


11:30 A.M.: Rapidly-expanding wildfires across a broad swath of southern Montana have caused injuries and burned more homes, buildings and vehicles, authorities said Thursday, as firefighters struggled to contain the flames amid hazardous conditions.

The precise toll of the latest spate of fires to hit the state remained uncertain. But there were well over 150 homes still threatened by blazes that in some cases burned unchecked.

High temperatures and erratic winds were forecast to make the fight more difficult. And with at least nine large fires burning in Montana, officials said there was increasing competition for adequate resources.

South of Livingston, the Pine Creek fire that ignited Wednesday resulted in minor injuries to firefighters and members of the public, the Park County sheriff's office said.

An evacuation was in place for the small town of Pine Creek and surrounding areas. The fire burned multiple houses and buildings there but spared the main building of the well-known Pine Creek Lodge and Cafe, a church and the one-room Pine Creek School, said Karen Tuscano with the Forest Service.

The size of the fire was reported Wednesday night at about 4 square miles, just hours after it started on private land along the Yellowstone River due to an undetermined cause. After burning through Pine Creek it moved up into the Gallatin National Forest and has at least doubled in size.

She said multiple houses and buildings were threatened, but a precise number was not available.

"We do have engines that will be working the burned area to hold on to what we have," Tuscano said.

"I don't know what we're going to have for resources quite yet ... Everybody's competing for resources around here. We hope for everything but take what we can get."

A resident who failed to heed an evacuation on a fire south of Butte was taken away by ambulance after suffering second-degree burns to his hands and arms, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Mariah Leuschen.

That blaze, the 19 Mile fire, has burned more than 4 square miles and at least nine structures including two houses.

An estimated 100 houses were threatened by the fire. Residents were being allowed back in with escorts on Thursday to check on the condition of their property.

South of Bozeman, officials said six houses and 20 commercial buildings and outbuildings were threatened by the Millie fire, which exploded from less than 1 square mile to more than 15 square miles from Wednesday to Thursday. The fire was uncontained Thursday.

11 A.M.: Residences were lost in the Pine Creek fire last night, but the Pine Creek café, school and church are still standing.

Fire information officer Karen Tuscano said it is not known how many homes were burned, but air surveillance Thursday could give a better idea. A view from the air will also give fire managers a better estimate of the fire's size.

"We know its over 2,500 acres, but we don't know exactly how big it is," she said.

Evacuated areas are east of East River Road from Suce Creek Road south to Pine Creek Campground Road.


10:30 A.M.: Fire officials said Thursday that a resident who failed to heed an evacuation south of Butte was taken away by ambulance after suffering second degree burns to his hands and arms, The Associated Press reported.

That blaze, the 19 Mile Fire, has burned more than four square miles and at least 10 structures.

8 A.M.: Both the Delphia and Rosebud fires had a calm night.

"Things are pretty quiet this morning," said Jeff Gildehaus, fire information officer on the Rosebud fire.

He said crews were able to shore up the lines around the fire during the night. Thursday they will be concentrating on the south end to make sure it doesn't expand further into timber.

"That would be a whole new ballgame," he said.

Work on the Delphia fire continues to wind down, said fire information officer Wayne Wynick. He said night crews worked only until midnight and will work regular day shifts going forward.

He said the goal now is to mop up along suppression lines and eliminate heat sources within 300 feet of the edge of the fire.

Wynick said people and equipment are being released and the fire will probably be returned to control of local fire officials this weekend. 

7 A.M.: American Red Cross of Montana has opened a shelter for Pine Creek fire evacuees at the Livingston Civic Center, 229 River Drive, in Livingston. A shelter in Whitehall for evacuees from the 19-Mile fire has been set up at St. Teresa of Avila Parish, 107 E. 2nd St.

OVERNIGHT REPORT: It came as no surprise to fire officials when red-flag conditions stoked existing wildfires and ignited a new wave of blazes across south-central and Eastern Montana Wednesday.

Wind gusts of up to 40 mph fanned fires through mixed timber and grasslands, prompting evacuations for residents south of Livingston and south of Roscoe.

The Pine Creek fire burning south of Livingston has burned an unknown of buildings and is far from under control, said Karen Tuscano, fire information officer for the National Forest Service.

The fire ignited at 2:30 p.m. about 15 miles south of Livingston on the west side of East River Road, jumped East River Road and is traveling east and north, Tuscano said.

Tuscano said officials aren't certain how how many acres the Pine Creek fire has burned, but they estimate it is more than 2,500 acres.

Evacuations have been ordered for Luccock Park Road and east to Deep Creek Bench, Suce and Poole Creek roads. Park County Rural and Paradise Valley volunteer fire departments along with the Forest Service and Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation have responded.

East River Road from Mill Creek to the Highway 89 junction at Carter's Bridge is closed.

“We declared a state of emergency due to the severity of fire — it has spread so fast over such a vast area threatening numerous structures,” Park County commissioner Randy Taylor said. “If it gets too much farther into the timber, there’s going to be no stopping it.”

Brought on by a combination of low humidity, warm temperatures and gusty winds, the red-flag warning is the highest fire forecast warning issued by the National Weather Service to warn of conditions that are ideal for fire starts and growth.

Park County fire warden Greg Coleman said the fire is burning on both private land and forest service land. The cause of the fire is unknown.

“I don’t have an acreage estimate at this time, but I can tell you it’s big,” Coleman said. “It’s taken off and has gone far. Flames are at least 30 feet high.”

Taylor said the fire produced too much smoke for air support Wednesday afternoon and into the evening, but the plan is to do a fly-over first thing Thursday morning. Park County has alerted Sweet Grass County that the fire is headed that direction, Taylor said.

Some minor injuries due to fire suppression have been reported by firefighters and the public, Tuscano said.

An evacuation shelter has been established for evacuees at the Civic Center in Livingston.

Rosebud fire

Mandatory evacuations were also ordered for approximately 20 residences along Getaway Trail five miles south of Roscoe following a three-mile run made by the 1,800-acre Rosebud fire.

Information officer Jeff Gildehaus said the fire jumped across Getaway Trail into grassland and into the Getaway Trail Subdivision near the Sandford Bridge shortly after 2 p.m., prompting evacuations.

The fire, fueled by 30 mph wind gusts,  grew about 1,000 acres. As of Wednesday night, the fire is 50 percent contained.

Gildehaus said air support efforts were delayed until about 5:30 p.m. during the wind storm.

Engines are close to houses and are focused on structure protection. One outbuilding has burned, Gildehaus said.

A Type 1 incident management team was briefed Wednesday evening and is scheduled to take over command Thursday at 6 a.m.

Gildehaus said 195 people are assisting the fire with about 80 firefighters from the DNRC and Carbon and Stillwater counties, with 30 engines, a pair each of bulldozers and water tenders, three helicopters, one heavy air tanker and two small engine tankers are fighting the fire.

Other fires

Elsewhere, fires that broke out Tuesday were churned by the gusty winds south of Bozeman, where the Millie Fire grew to 1,000 acres in the Gallatin National Forest, and southeast of Winnett, where the Skinner Fire was burning about 5 square miles.

All four new fires were reported at zero containment Wednesday evening.

The 63-square-mile Delphia Fire, which had threatened homes and prompted evacuations in Musselshell County earlier this week, was 90 percent contained Wednesday evening.

“While the red flag called for erratic fire growth, we dodged the bullet,” Wayne Wynick said. “The fire was very cooperative and we didn’t see fire growth or any new starts.”

Wynick said a night shift crew will work a partial shift tonight and continue working only during the days through full containment and rehabilitation work. Resources will begin to be released to other fires in the next few days.

“We are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and not just flames and smoke,” Wynick said.

More than 1,300 square miles already have burned in Montana this summer, with most of that destruction in the rain-starved eastern half of the state.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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