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Wildfire, fire management and air quality news for western Montana and the Northern Rockies.

Wildfire Threatening Town Of Zortman

UPDATED: 9:00 AM Tue 7/5

Despite some favorable conditions  overnight, a large wildfire is still burning too close for comfort near the town of Zortman. 

The July fire is now estimated at 1,669 acres. Initial estimates had the fire at about 1-thousand acres. Wind and terrain carried the fire away from town on Tuesday, but it still managed to creep to within a quarter-mile of Zortman, which is about an hour southwest of Malta and just outside of the Fort Belknap Reservation.

No mandatory evacuations have been ordered at this time, but law enforcement officers from the Phillips County Sheriff's Office and BLM are ready to assist with evacuations should they become necessary.

Local resident David Rummel, who is watching the fire from his father's property outside of Zortman said law enforcement has set up a roadblock outside of town, and is asking people not to enter unless they have to, but that they are not preventing people from entering the town.

"I think they're all very worried (the fire) will come into town," Rummel said about the people who live there. 

A mix of local, state, federal and tribal agencies have about 136 crew members fighting the July fire. Multiple aircraft, including a heavy air tanker were dropping water and fire retardant on Tuesday.

BLM spokesman Jonathan Moor says the fire is burning primarily on BLM land. As of  Wednesday morning there was no estimate of containment.

A Type 2 management team has been ordered and is expected to take control of the incident on Wednesday afternoon.

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for the area Wednesday afternoon and evening due to forecast hot temperatures, low humidity and gusty winds.

The fire is burning in Phillips County, one of 19 counties that Governor Steve Bullock declared in a drought emergency on June 23rd.

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