BECKY BOHRER Associated Press Writer
JORDAN Seven fires were burning more than 150 square miles of mostly grassland this morning, and fire crews working double shifts hoped that a quiet night would help them gain control of the blazes. “We’re anticipating making excellent progress today,” U.S. Forest Service staffer Sharon Sweeney said this morning, after a night of low humidity kept the so-called Black Pulaski fires from growing. Elsewhere, firefighters were in the last stages of containing two large wildfires and continuing efforts toward containing another in the eastern half of Montana. The Black Pulaski fires, burning north of Jordan and south of Fort Peck Lake, were threatening about 60 buildings, including 20 homes, over a wide area, but none were in immediate danger, she said. No wildlife was endangered, she said. The fires, started by lightning, were on private and federal lands, including the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. A cold front was expected to move through the area later today with increasing winds, which could cause the fire to spread. “If we get through this frontal passage today we’ll be in great shape,” Sweeney said.
North of Pompeys Pillar, firefighters working the 92,000-acre Bundy Railroad fire were in mop-up mode, focusing on an island on the Yellowstone River with areas that were still smoldering, information officer Pat Cross said. The fire was nearing full containment and plans called for demobilizing some personnel today, he said. Southeast of Ashland, the size of the Watt Draw fire, also nearing containment, was unchanged. The Flat Tire fires, consisting of two wildfires north of Fort Peck Lake, have burned an estimated 18,635 acres, with the Flat Tire fire accounting for almost all of that, Mike Cole, a spokesman for the team managing the fires, said Thursday morning. Fire activity had been limited, and firefighters, some of whom camped near the fire lines overnight to avoid a 1 -hour trip from base camp to the lines, were planning to focus on mop up, he said. Thunderstorms moved through the area early today, and a front was expected to move through later in the day, bringing only a slight chance of decent rain, Cole said. “We’re pretty cautious right now,” he said. Meanwhile, two trails in the Absaroka- Beartooth wilderness, Pine Creek trail No. 47 and George Lake trail No. 184, remained closed while efforts to fight a 120-acre fire in rugged terrain continued, Gallatin National Forest spokeswoman Marna Daley said. A special firefighting team has been asked to assume management of the fire, she said.