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Rain, Snow, Frost Help Calm Western Fires

September 7, 1996

Fires in much of the West were brought under control Friday, while air and ground crews surrounded a Montana blaze that flared from a few hundred acres to 8,000 in a few hours.

Firefighters in Montana had planes and helicopters dump fire retardant over the 11,000-acre Shepard Mountain fire in the Custer National Forest.

High mid-week winds fanned the fire’s size nearly ten-fold within hours. It overran a fire command post, injuring two firefighters and trapping 55 overnight.

On Thursday it forced evacuation of the approximately 100 residents of two small towns in south-central Montana. Friday’s cooler weather, with some frost, calmed the fire. But rising winds threatened to send it on another rampage.

``We have 10 crews out, and we have dozers out, and we’re just getting ready to start what we call an air show,″ said Sherry Milburn, public information officer for the Custer National Forest.

Another fire on the remote northern edge of Yellowstone National Park reached 3,200 acres. The Forest Service was allowing the lightning-sparked fire to burn according to its policy of letting some fires burn naturally unless they threaten to get out of hand or endanger lives.

Showers and snow fell on many Oregon fires, but warm, dry weather was forecast for the weekend. Weary firefighters closed the line around fires that burned nearly 90,000 acres around the state.

Firefighters in Wyoming worked against two fires, a 2,200-acre fire in Bighorn National Forest and a 2,300-acre blaze in the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

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