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Dugan firefighter

A firefighter works on an area scorched by the Dugan fire. It has burned 10,675 acres south of Ekalaka.

8 A.M.: Work reinforcing lines and mopping up on the 10,675-acre Dugan fire continued on Monday night.

The fire, burning about two miles south of Ekalaka in and around the Custer National Forest, has destroyed an uninhabited home, eight outbuildings, an uninhabited trailer and three sheds since it started on Sept. 14.

The fire's cause remains unknown and is under investigation.

Linda Williams, fire information officer for the Montana Department of Natural Resources County Assist Team in charge of the fire, said that firefighters will focus on clearing out snags within the burn area.

Snags are burnt trees and crews will go in and evaluate which ones are at risk of falling over, which can injure firefighters as they're mopping up, hurt land owners after the fact and, in some cases, cause new fire starts if the trees are still smoldering.

"The ones that appear the weakest, they saw them down," Williams said. "We'll keep going through there to determine which trees we need to take down."

Officials on the fire also expressed concern over Tuesday's predicted weather. The National Weather Service issued on Tuesday morning a red flag warning for all of Eastern Montana, including Ekalaka, warning of high winds, low humidity levels and possibly warmer temperatures from noon to 9 p.m.

"We do have red flag warnings for this afternoon, so this morning they are really trying to button it down in preparation for these high winds later this afternoon," Williams said.

The fire also burned through the Ekalaka Park Campground, destroying a handful of picnic tables.

A U.S. Forest Service closure of National Forest System lands in the area impacted by the fire remains in effect but doesn't include private land or other land managed by other agencies.

Almost 200 people are assigned to the fire, as well as 21 engines, a pair of helicopters, three dozers and two graders.


OVERNIGHT REPORT: Fire crews continued Monday to trench out fire lines around the Dugan fire, which has blackened 10,675 acres two miles south of Ekalaka.

Linda Williams, fire information officer, said containment is at 60 percent after Monday’s efforts, up from 28 percent earlier in the day.

“I went up to the (fire) lines today, and it’s looking good,” she said. “It’s looking really good. Those crews are working really hard.”

That progress was made despite increasing winds throughout the area that blew snags over, creating extra work and hazards for firefighters in areas they had already tackled.

As of Monday afternoon, the fire hadn’t grown much since Sunday, Williams said. It has destroyed three outbuildings and an uninhabited trailer but no homes.

The fire is burning on a mix of private, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service-managed land in the Custer National Forest.

The forest service’s closure of lands in the area remains in effect.

It’s cause remains under investigation.

About 190 people — engine strike teams, hand crews, sawyers, smoke jumpers and overhead crews — are assigned to the fire.

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