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Wildfire threatens key West Coast power line
By Susan Gallagher The Associated Press August 18, 2000 4:45 a.m. CDT
HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- A fire burning in the ranching country north of the Missouri River headwaters made a major run during the night, burning over ranches and threatening a major power line to the Pacific Northwest early Friday.
"The sky to the east is just glowing red for miles," said Mike Koehnke of Townsend, disaster and emergency services chief in Broadwater County.
Koehnke said the fire was very close to the power line feeding electricity from the Colstrip generating complex in southeastern Montana to Seattle, 750 miles to the west. A Montana Power Co. official said early Friday the 500,000-volt line had not been damaged.
The blaze was among 86 fires burning 1.1 million acres in 11 Western states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Idaho. Nationally, wildfires have burned about 5.1 million acres so far -- more than twice the 10-year average.
"Every fire truck, every search and rescue, every law officer is on this," Koehnke said.
He estimated the fire, fed by heavy timber, advanced 5 miles in two hours late Thursday
http://cnews.tribune.com/news/tribune/story/0,1235,tribune-nation-70372,00.html and was about 5 miles south of U.S. 12, a major east-west highway.
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), August 18, 2000
I saw this on the news this morning. I started thinking about what people would lose if the power was cut off to the whole area.
I'm still glad I'm prepared for emergencies.
I hope they get the fires under control.
-- Sally Strackbein (sally@SallysKitchen.com), August 18, 2000.
an season' arrives
Fire calms, spares key power line in West
By Susan Gallagher The Associated Press August 18, 2000 11:04 a.m. CDT
HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- A firestorm that raced through ranching country north of the Missouri River headwaters calmed down early Friday, sparing major power lines to the Pacific Northwest, at least for now.
"But if the wind blows up again, it will keep doing the same thing. There is no fire line and this fire can go wherever it wants to do," said Milt Knuckles, a Helena National Forest dispatcher.
The fire had burned an estimated 35,000 acres by late Thursday, and likely burned several thousand more acres before the winds died down, Knuckles said.
"The sky to the east is just glowing red for miles," said Mike Koehnke, disaster and emergency services chief in Broadwater County.
About a dozen families were still being kept from their homes, and others were told to prepare to evacuate, he said.
The fire was still close to the two power lines feeding electricity from the Colstrip generating complex in southeastern Montana to the Pacific Northwest, he said.
Koehnke said firefighters were aiming Friday to protect the power lines, which can deliver enough electricity to meet the needs of four cities the size of Seattle. Earlier this month, a different fire to the west knocked the same lines out for several days.
The blaze was among 86 fires burning 1.1 million acres in 11 Western states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. Nationally, wildfires have burned about 5.1 million acres so far -- more than twice the 10-year average.
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt attended a briefing Friday at the Boise center, and said afterward that federal coffers were wide open for whatever money is needed to fight the fire.
"We have an open draw on the Treasury," he said.
But he said no more manpower can be assigned to the fires at present, because every available fire crew supervisor is already on the job, including several dozen from Australia and New Zealand. Sending in more troops, for example, would be futile if there is no one trained to supervise their efforts.
Montana had the most burning acreage in the West, followed by Idaho with 25 significant fires on 408,826 acres.
The fire that posed the latest threat to the power lines started Tuesday afternoon, apparently from a spark from harvesting equipment working in a grain field, and ran 12 miles to the south and east.
Koehnke estimated the fire, fed by heavy timber, advanced 5 miles in two hours late Thursday and was about 5 miles south of U.S. 12, a major east-west highway.
"It's a big fire," he said. "We don't think anybody's lives are in danger, but we feel really bad about the homes and people's property."
In Idaho, nearly 5,000 firefighters battled more than two dozen blazes in Idaho, where more than 400,000 acres have burned. Officials on Thursday halted public access to the Salmon River, affecting more than 90 river guides and hunting outfitters and thousands of tourists.
In Wyoming, firefighters continued to struggle with a fire that closed the highway between Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
And in northern California, a fast-moving fire has burned 1,500 acres in Plumas National Forest near the town of Storrie. Fire officials said rocky terrain and heavy smoke were making fighting the fire difficult.
-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 18, 2000.