Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Montana wildfires burn homes, cause injuries

BILLINGS, Mont. — Rapidly expanding wildfires across a broad swath of southern Montana have caused injuries and burned homes, other 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 at least three evacuation orders were in place and well over 150 homes were threatened by blazes that in some cases burned unchecked.

High temperatures and erratic winds made the fight more difficult. And with at least nine large fires burning in Montana, officials said there was increasing competition for adequate equipment and personnel.

"We hope for everything but take what we can get," said Karen Tuscano of the U.S. Forest Service.

Tuscano was responding to a new wildfire in Paradise Valley near Yellowstone National Park. The blaze, known as the Pine Creek Fire, ignited Wednesday and resulted in minor injuries to firefighters and citizens, the Park County Sheriff's Office said.

The fire had grown to an estimated 8 square miles less than a day after it was reported Wednesday afternoon on private land near the Yellowstone River.

A resident who failed to evacuate during a fire south of Butte suffered second-degree burns to his hands and arms, said Forest Service spokeswoman Mariah Leuschen. That blaze, the 19 Mile Fire, has burned more than 4 square miles.

Wildfires were burning in at least six other western states, including California and Wyoming, where a blaze in the Teton Wilderness has scorched 19 square miles.

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