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Wildfire started by house fire spreads into Lame Deer

April 8, 2019

LAME DEER, Mont. (AP) — A house fire on Montana’s Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation sparked a blaze that quickly burned through 1,700 acres (688 hectares) of dry grass and trees and forced evacuations before crews were able to contain it.

The fire spread from the house fire northwest of Lame Deer on Sunday, pushed by strong winds and fed by dry conditions on the ground.

Rosebud County Sheriff Allen Fulton told the Billings Gazette the fire reached the town of about 2,000 people that is the center of the tribal government, but fire crews stopped it at state Highway 39, the main north-south road.

“They got ahead of it and got it contained,” Fulton said.

He didn’t know of any structure losses in Lame Deer. The Lame Deer Junior/Senior High School opened to evacuees, and Fulton said another shelter was opened at the St. Labre Indian School in Ashland.

The fire temporarily closed U.S. Highway 212.

Low humidity and high winds created unusually fire-prone conditions for this time of year.

“The fuels are all dead. We haven’t gotten any grass green-up, or in the trees,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Chambers. “Conditions are as they would be in the late fall.”

Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Director John Tubbs told The Associated Press last November that fire seasons have been starting earlier and ending later because of climate change and insects and disease killing trees.

“Climate change is real — we are seeing our fire seasons increasing maybe 45, 60 days per year,” Tubbs said.

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