IMAGE: FIRE ON MOUNTAINSIDE
Pete Becken  /  Inciweb.org
Flames race up a mountain in the Montana fire that jumped from 18,000 acres on Tuesday to 159,000 by Friday.
updated 9/3/2006 12:56:49 AM ET 2006-09-03T04:56:49

Some evacuation requests were lifted Saturday near a wildfire that has burned 26 homes and 20 other structures after the blaze didn’t grow significantly overnight.

“The fire was very calm last night,” fire information officer Brian LaMoure said Saturday. “There were no big runs or anything like that.”

The fire is estimated at 159,000 acres, or nearly 250 square miles. It grew from 18,000 acres on Tuesday and has cost $3.2 million to fight, LaMoure said.

Evacuation orders were lifted for some residents and the employees of a mine. The palladium and platinum mine has reopened and is fully operable, LaMoure said. Authorities had ordered evacuations of about 500 homes in Sweet Grass and Stillwater counties.

Twenty-three homes in Stillwater County have burned, along with three in Sweet Grass County, LaMoure said. Two private bridges across the Stillwater River were destroyed.

More than 600 people were assigned to help fight the fire Saturday, officials said. Containment was estimated at 20 percent.

In Columbus, Fran “Cyd” Zeigler helped her elderly tenants gather their belongings Friday at Stillwater Community Hospital and head for home — the Absarokee apartment complex they had fled two days earlier.

The hospital became part hostel, with several rooms turned over to some of the apartment dwellers, who were ushered from their homes on the advice of emergency services officials.

“The tenants who could drive loaded up as many (people) as they could,” said Zeigler, manager of the complex. “Others have family that came and got them.”

Elsewhere, a Colorado wildfire that destroyed a home and three other buildings was about 70 percent contained, officials said. The 830-acre fire is in an area of natural gas development about 190 miles west of Denver.

In eastern Washington, firefighters were racing to shore up lines around several large wildfires before the arrival of warmer, drier weather forecast next week.

The largest Washington fire had blackened 149,487 acres, or 233 square miles, between Conconully and Winthrop in the Okanogan and Wenatchee national forests. It was being battled by 2,250 firefighters and was about 54 percent trailed.

A growing wildfire that had burned about 800 acres, or more than 1 square mile, forced authorities to evacuate a popular recreation area west of Oregon’s Cascade Range. Some forest areas east of the fire have been reopened.

On Friday, federal fire forecasters said the 2006 wildfire season probably will resemble last year’s, which scorched about 8.2 million acres. Both years are well above the 4.7 million-acre average for the last 10 years.

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