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Lightning storms spark fires


Firefighters had their hands full Wednesday after a series of lightning storms ignited a number of fires across north-central Montana.

A large wildland fire in southern Blaine County claimed 1,500 acres, Blaine County Commissioner Art Kleinjan said today.

Lightning ignited pine trees in an area east of the Lloyd Road about 40 miles south of Chinook, he said. Rural firefighters, including Kleinjan, responded to the fire about 11 a.m., he said.

No structures burned.

The fire quickly gained ground, and volunteer crews were joined by crews from the Montana Department of State Lands and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Kleinjan said. Airplanes and helicopters dropped loads of water and retardant on the fire, which burned both private and public lands.

Lightning sparked a smaller fire west of the main blaze, but it was quickly put out, he said. The larger fire was contained early this morning.

"Some of us stayed overnight to baby-sit it," Kleinjan said. " Crews were still out there mopping up today. Once it gets going it's tough to put out."

Hill County also had several fires Wednesday. Two large fires and several smaller ones were reported in the Gildford area.

More than 30 volunteer firefighters and residents turned out to combat a fire eight miles south of Gildford, volunteer firefighter Ron Kapperud said. Crews from Gildford, Kremlin and Hingham, as well as a number of area farmers, responded to the fire, he said.

Three trucks from the Gildford Volunteer Fire Department and about eight other water trucks were used to combat the blaze, Kapperud said.

The blaze was contained in about 90 minutes. Kapperud said he believed the fire burned about 150 acres.

"It was after dark," and it was tough to tell how much was actually burned, he said.

Another fire 15 miles south of Gildford was put out by heavy rain showers, Kapperud said.


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