The Associated Press
Firefighters quickly attacked numerous lightning-caused blazes, keeping their damage to a minimum, while wrapping up efforts on the Packer Gulch fire near Missoula. A lightning storm started several fires between Billings and Roundup Sunday night, including the 600-acre Juniper fire in the Bull Mountains, 10 to 12 miles south of Roundup. Supervisors even canceled a request for a slurry bomber on the Juniper fire, though the plane eventually ended up making the drop because it had nowhere else to empty its contents. “Nothing was a real panic,” said Linda Robinson, a dispatcher at Billings Interagency Dispatch. “We were really watching it as a front came through, but it looks like everything held.” The nearby Juniper 2 and 30 Mile fires were held to about 5 acres each, the Pfister fire, 10 miles north of Shepherd, remained at an estimated 108 acres, Robinson said. Firefighters also traveled to Carbon County to conduct initial attacks on fires 5 to 10 miles north of Joliet. The largest was 10 acres and all were lightning caused. “It sounds like we hit them hard and fast and got them,” Robinson said. Southeast of Livingston, the South Pine fire was 35 percent contained at 420 acres.
At 420 acres. East of Missoula the 3,050 acre Packer Gulch fire was 80 percent contained Monday evening, after destroying a house and two outbuildings. “It’s dry, hot and there are gusty winds," said Brandon Smith, a fire information officer. “The terrain is rugged and there are scattered fuels, but they’re holding it together and making progress.” A 20-acre fire on Mount Sentinel poured smoke into downtown Missoula Monday morning, but crews had the upper hand by mid-afternoon. The fire started at about 1:30 a.m. Monday and was likely human caused, said Linda McFaddan, an information officer with the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. “The team got on this fire fast,” Smith said. The state's largest series of fires, the Black Pulaski fires near Jordan, are now contained, fire officials said. The fires, seven in all, started with a series of lightning strikes about a week ago.