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Lodgepole Complex fire

A plane drops a defensive line of retardant on the Bridge Coulee fire in the Lodgepole Complex near Sand Springs on July 23.

There are at least five wildfires in Montana that each have burned through more than a million dollars in firefighting costs this year, according to estimates from the Northern Rockies Coordination Center.

The estimates are based on a computer program that crunches running costs from everything from firefighter labor to catering costs. Deciding who foots the bill depends on several factors and often doesn't get sorted out until the winter. Sometimes, multiple agencies end up splitting the cost. 

The 270,000-acre Lodgepole Complex is the largest fire in the nation, and so far, Montana's most expensive. The fire in Garfield and Petroleum counties is up to 62 percent containment, according to a Thursday update from fire officials, and has cost about $6 million to fight. 

Several new lightning-started fires in the area were quickly extinguished by locals following a Thursday morning thunderstorm. No rain fell on the north end of the fire, but Connell said no major areas of concern remain along the fire's perimeter.

The much smaller Sapphire Complex has burned about 6,600 acres southeast of Missoula. Combined, the Sliderock, Little Hogback and Goat Creek fires have cost about $4.4 million. The lightning-sparked fires are no more than 5 percent contained. The fires are burning in more heavily forested areas than the Lodgepole Complex. 

The Park Creek Fire two miles north of Lincoln has cost about $2.8 million to fight. The 3,500-acre lightning-sparked fire is 25 percent contained. 

The 1,000-acre Meyers Fire has cost about $1.1 million. The fire is burning about 25 southwest of Philipsburg and was started by lightning. 

The 1,600-acre Lolo Peak Fire is burning 10 miles southwest of Lolo. The lightning-sparked blaze has costs about $1.1 million. 

The NRCC information didn't list the Sunrise Fire, which has led to evacuations orders in Mineral County. The 2,700-acre fire has kicked out long-range spot fires beyond the main blaze and became the top priority nationally for firefighting resources Wednesday. 

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Billings Gazette.