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Montana Wildfire Forces Evacuations

posted on August 24, 2007


BILLINGS, Mont.

A 350-home subdivision was evacuated because of a wildfire that destroyed two houses, with more homes threatened by flames that reached the decks of some, officials said Monday.

Resident Kelsey Ebinger said she and her brother drove out the rear entrance of the subdivision in a convoy of about 60 cars because the main entrance was blocked by the 1,000-acre fire reported Sunday.

"People were getting so panicked, they were going 60 mph, but there was no way you could outrun it," said Ebinger, 19.

William Rash, chief of the Lockwood Fire Department, said crews fought flames "right up to the back door" of some homes.

Gusty wind and low humidity helped flames spread elsewhere in western Montana, prompting more evacuations at several blazes, including one near Seeley Lake that had destroyed one hours and damaged several others.

Crews were pulled off that fire after it jumped control lines and grew to 31,520 acres, or 49 square miles. It was 25 percent contained Monday, officials said.

Southeast of Missoula, Granite County authorities evacuated 213 cabins and homes in the path of a complex of fires that had charred at least 44,000 acres, or 69 square miles, in three national forests.

Crews in California were worried that high temperatures and low humidity this week could enable a huge wildfire in the Los Padres National Forest near Santa Barbara to undergo another growth spurt.

The 199,588-acre, or 312 square-mile blaze is the third largest wildfire in California history.

"It's growing, and it may become the granddaddy of them all before this is over with," Maeton Freel, a fire information officer with the U.S. Forest Service, told the Ventura County Star on Sunday.

Residents of about two dozen rural Ventura County homes were urged to leave.

Elsewhere, a 17-square-mile fire in Idaho was within a mile of about 100 summer cottages and million-dollar homes Monday near the resort town of Ketchum on Monday morning. Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter ordered residents of the homes to evacuate Sunday and many of them had complied, said fire spokesman Dave Olson.

Residents of more than 200 other homes were encouraged to leave voluntarily and take their livestock, Olson said Sunday. No injuries were reported.


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