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Update: Blaine County firefighting progressing

A lightning-started fire in southern Blaine County that has burned more than 800 acres is nearly under control, and depending on what happens by Friday morning, crews may be going home, the initial incident commander said this morning.

Scott Gallus, assistant chief of the Chinook Fire Department and the initial incident commander at the Fisher Fire on the Cowan Ranch said conditions had greatly improved by this afternoon.

"Things are looking really, really good," he said at about 1 p.m.

Gallus said that, barring thunderstorms or high winds or other events creating problems, the crews might be able to start heading home Friday morning.

They will remain at the fire at least through the night, mopping up and making sure the fire does not get out of control.

He said the amount of help that came through was amazing — along with the Chinook firefighters and firefighters with trucks from the southern part of the county, Bureau of Land Management firefighters fought the blaze, including using two bureau helicopters to drop water, state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation crews fought the blaze, Harlem sent a major contingent, local companies including Havre Pipeline and Devon Energy sent assistance, and the crews from the Cowan Ranch also were major players in containing the blaze.

The fire started when lightning struck in timber on the top of a ridge, Gallus said. It then worked its way down into grassland.

Fire breaks were built around the blaze using equipment including a Blaine County road grader, a bulldozer from the Cowan Ranch and a skidgine — a piece of firefighting equipment basically created by combining a logging skidder with a fire engine.

Gallus also urged everyone in the region to use extreme caution when outside.

"We want to remind everyone, with the hot dry conditions, to be very careful in their activities," he said.


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