Southeastern Montana Fire Quickly Expands, Threatens Homes

CROW AGENCY, Mont. (AP) — A southeastern Montana wildfire exploded in size and was threatening numerous homes as it burns through grasslands and sage brush around the Crow Indian Reservation near the Wyoming border, officials said Thursday.

No homes were lost when strong winds pushed the fire more than 15 miles south in a 24-hour period, Crow Tribe information officer Jack Old Horn.

The fire that started Tuesday in the Poverty Flats area outside the reservation has grown to at least 86 square miles (222 square kilometers), according to an official estimate released Thursday.

Old Horn said he was told it was even larger but that a precise size estimate was unavailable as crews concentrated on fighting the blaze.

Cooler temperature, some cloud cover and the prospects of rain could help as firefighters continued their work Thursday, Old Horn said.

Officials asked people to “stay away so firefighters can do their work” after spectators had posed an obstacle to some firefighters on Wednesday.

In Broadwater County, the sheriff's office issued a mandatory evacuation order for residents near a fire that has burned more than 19 square miles (48 square kilometers) in the Woods Creek area of the Big Belt Mountains east of Helena.

Evacuation orders remained in place for a fire east of southeast of Cascade that grew to more than 40 square miles (102 square kilometers).