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Fire Crews Worried About Western Montana

August 10, 2005

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) _ A wildfire threatening a major power line in western Montana is kicking up and firefighters might not be able to keep up with it, a fire official says.

High wind pushed the fire Tuesday afternoon, and fire boss Bob Sandman said it had the potential to run a mile or more over a 24-hour period.

The fire jumped bulldozed fire lines as if they weren’t there, he said.

``We knew that once the fire jumped Nemote Creek that we were in a horse race, and it turned out that our horses weren’t that fast,″ Sandman said.

That fire and another, nearby blaze were both potential threats to a major Bonneville Power Administration transmission line and officials said an air tanker was assigned to help protect the line

``This is a high priority fire because of the BPA power lines,″ said fire information officer Pat McKelvey.

Westbound traffic on I-90 was restricted to one lane through the fire area.

In southeastern Washington state, firefighters said a 41,000-acre wildfire that had destroyed an estimated 100 residences was about 35 percent contained.

The fire moved more slowly Tuesday, although humidity remained low and temperatures were in the mid 90s, said Earl Bassett, a fire crew spokesman.

The fire, which started Friday, was moving into rougher terrain in the Umatilla National Forest.

The National Interagency Fire Center said 31 large fires were active in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon and Washington. So far this year, wildfires have charred 5.2 million acres nationwide, compared to 5.6 million acres at the same time last year.

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On the Net:

National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov

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