Montana wildfire grows to 5,100 acres
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
RED LODGE, Mont. ” Employees of the Red Lodge Mountain Ski Resort were running at least eight snowmaking guns Monday to spray water on its two lodges and several lift shacks to help protect the area from a 5,100-acre fire burning about two miles away.
“The ski area is a very high priority for everyone involved,” said Tom Kuntz, Red Lodge volunteer fire chief. “It’s a significant economic driver for the community six months out of the year. By keeping the ski area viable, we keep the community viable.”
The snowmaking guns, which draw water from ponds near the top of the mountain, were recently purchased as part of a planned makeover of the resort by its new owners, JMA Ventures.
A national incident command team took over responsibility for firefighting operations Monday morning, as officials increased the fire’s acreage due to better mapping.
“They got a lot of resources in last night: structure trucks, hand crews. There’s going to be a fair number of firefighters on the line today,” said Darrel Krum, the Disaster and Emergency Services coordinator for Carbon County.
The Cascade fire, reported Saturday afternoon, has burned five summer homes and an outbuilding in the historic Camp Senia area. Another 25 homes nearby were saved.
“Our priorities are protection of Red Lodge, the Red Lodge ski area and associated subdivisions,” said Dixie Dies, a fire information officer with the U.S. Forest Service.
Fire bosses said heavy airtankers would be available for retardant drops Monday, along with a heavy, a medium and a light helicopter.
Twenty-seven engines, four water tenders, a bulldozer, three 20-person hand crews and 50 support staff were assigned to the fire, with personnel totaling 200 people. Fire officials say the engines are assigned to structure protection and more have been ordered.
The Grizzly Peaks subdivision about three miles west of Red Lodge was evacuated Sunday as a precaution. There are an estimated 40 to 50 homes in the subdivision. Another 40 to 50 homes west of Red Lodge also were evacuated.
Kuntz said he did not anticipate any further evacuation orders, unless the wind picked up Monday afternoon.
“The weather is somewhat favorable today,” Dies said, with predictions for low winds and mild temperatures in the low to mid 70s. However, fire bosses are looking ahead with some concern to Thursday, when a cold front and thunderstorms are expected, which could produce high winds.
The fire was burning along a two-mile front Monday. Fire crews planned to set up a base of operations on the west side of the fire, then dig lines around the perimeter toward the east side, which is the area of most concern as the fire moves eastward toward Red Lodge and several subdivisions.
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