While all eyes are focusing on Texas and Florida after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Montana residents are praying for rain. Sadly, there has been very little coverage of the tragedy unfolding in the state. Nevertheless, Montana officials are pleading for help, as spreading wildfires burn down millions of acres.
Governor Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency back on July 23. Since then, only 30% of the Lolo fires have been contained. Also, Glacier National Park has lost multiple historical treasures and more than 530 other structures have been destroyed. Countless numbers of people and livestock are being evacuated.
In addition, the city of Moiese is postponing their annual bison round-up in late September, over concerns of dangerous smoke and dry conditions. A map of current blazes throughout the region outlines the large amounts of burning acreage. The following are some of the locations currently experiencing fire hazards:
Rice Ridge Fire (Seeley Lake)
Location: 2 miles northeast of Seeley Lake
Size: 108,126 acres
Containment: 2 percent
Structures Threatened: 1090
Lolo Peak Fire
Location: 10 miles southwest of Lolo
Size: 47,775 acres
Containment: 31 percent
Structures threatened: 540
Structures destroyed: 2 homes, 6 outbuildings
Nelson Creek Fire (Bitterroot)
Location: 3 miles west of the West Fork Ranger District
Size: 280 acres
Containment: 45 percent
Highway 200 Complex
Location: northwest of Plains
Size: 21,355 acres
Containment – zero percent
Fireman and law enforcement officials near Plains, MT are still battling fires this week, as high winds fan the flames. Sanders County Sheriff, Tom Rummel, describes the scene as something close to war. “The flames were so high that it looked like military put a load of napalm on top of the ridge,” he told the Missoulian.
Consequently, smoke from burning fires across the Western U.S. are severely reducing air quality. With over 62 total fires in Montana, Washington, Oregon, and Wyoming, skies are filling with a cloudy haze. Breathing problems are also on the rise. But, help from mother nature may be on the way.
Thousands in Montana remain under evacuation orders. However, a winter weather advisory is being issued for higher elevations extending through Saturday. Forecasters are calling for heavy rainfall to most of the state with temperatures dropping into the 30s and 40s. Officials are optimistic that the rains and snow will help to at least slow the fires.