HELENA (AP) Bulldozers scraped protective lines around seven ranch houses and an outbuilding Friday as a new wildfire swelled to 1,000 acres in the rugged Missouri Breaks 30 miles northwest of Jordan.
Two other fires were in the same area, one of them also reaching 1,000 acres, but neither threatened any buildings, officials reported.
"If the wind comes up on any of these it could be really bad," said Dena Sprandel-Lang in the Miles City office of the BLM.
With fires burning throughout the West, Sprandel-Lang said firefighting resources are being spread thin. She said the Miles City office had placed orders for more air support, and that the request was being considered by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.
Montana's biggest fire, the Mickey Butte Fire on the C.M. Russell Wildlife Refuge, had gained 1,000 acres, growing to 3,100 acres, by Friday, spokesman Bill Berg said.
Also on the refuge, the Germaine Fire was burning more than 1,000 acres and had three engines on it as of Friday morning. The third major fire in the area, the Ghost Coulee Fire, grew from about 250 acres on Thursday to 600 acres on Friday.
Berg said the weather was better on Friday, with less wind, and that the active part of the Ghost Coulee Fire was burning toward Fort Peck Lake.
The ranch houses threatened by the Big Coulee Fire, in Ponderosa pine and juniper northwest of Jordan, also were being protected by fire engines, Sprandel-Lang said.
"Unless they get a wind shift, we should be OK," she said.
In southeastern Montana, the Ash Draw Fire, about three miles south of Hammond in Carter County, grew to about 650 acres. The fire was 70 percent contained, and officials expected to have it fully contained by late afternoon Friday, Sprandel-Lang said. There were 104 firefighters on the fire.
The Mickey Butte Fire on the wildlife refuge had to do without air support. It had a low priority for claiming aerial tankers or helicopters because it was threatening no buildings, said Mike Granger, fire management officer for the refuge.
Two-thirds of the fire was in a wilderness area where the five available fire engines also could not go.
The Blackwall Fire near the Montana-Idaho border 20 miles west of Wisdom grew by 100 acres to 456 acres by Friday, spokeswoman Gail Baer said. It was about 10 percent contained.
Most of the fire was in Idaho, she said, but winds were spreading it farther into Montana. Nine 20-member hand crews and a helicopter were trying to control it.
The Jimtown Fire in the Helena National Forest northeast of Helena was 80 percent contained on Thursday, with 333 firefighters working on it, said spokesman Jack Kendley. The fire covered 1,061 acres.
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