MUSSELSHELL — Dorance and Harrietta Seeger lost everything but their house when the Delphia fire tore through their property south of here over the weekend.
The couple almost lost the house, too, but Musselshell volunteer firefighters saved it even as flames licked one side of the log structure. Firefighters pulled off a deck to save the home the Seegers built.
“I’ve got to give the firefighters all the credit in the world,” Dorance Seeger said Monday.
The Seegers’ house and a few outbuildings are surrounded by blackened ground still smoking in places. The house is surrounded by burned trees. On a hill behind the house are the scorched shells of farm equipment.
Two llama carcasses lie on a hillside also behind the house.
“I found them yesterday,” Seeger said. "I really didn’t want to lose the llamas."
The prized animals, both registered, died trying to escape a barn that was destroyed in the fire, he said.
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The llamas didn’t make it, but the Seegers’ angora goat, Buster, two horses and a guard dog escaped the fire unhurt.
“I lost damn near all my trees. All my fences are about gone. I’ve still got fires burning on my property,” Seeger said.
The fire also destroyed the Seegers’ new sawmill and 100 hay bales.
“It was all good grass hay. I had 30 of them sold, and I lost it all,” Seeger said.
The Seegers moved to their Fishel Creek property 12 years ago. About half of their 320 acres was hay field and half was a forest, Seeger said. The self-sufficient couple heat with wood and have a diesel generator.
Although the fire destroyed much of their property, it wasn’t enough to drive them out.
“This is not going to stop me from living here,” Seeger said. "I can deal with it."
“Pray a lot. Ask the good Lord for help,” he said.
The Seegers were among area residents who attended a community information meeting about the fire Monday morning at the Musselshell School.
Pat McKelvey, fire information officer, said firefighters had a good night Sunday and were working on reinforcing lines ahead of winds expected Tuesday and Wednesday.
"We're following (the weather) real closely," he said.
Crews also are constructing suppression lines on the fire’s eastern flank, he said.
The Delphia fire has burned more than 40,100 acres and was about 60 percent contained Monday night. The lightning-caused fire was reported Friday and is burning 16 miles east of Roundup and south of Highway 12.
A Northern Rockies Type 2 Incident Management Team took over command of the fire Sunday. There were 368 firefighters and support crew members on the fire by Monday along with five helicopters, three heavy air tankers, 48 engines, 14 water tenders and seven bulldozers. Eight hand crews include hot shot, initial attack and fire crews.
Power was restored to several hundred homes that were without electricity over the weekend after the fire torched a transmission line. Power was restored to the areas of Melstone and Musselshell on Sunday night, McKelvey said.