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

Montana Wildfire Update For July 7, 2021

Montana Wildfire News

Updated at 6:00 p.m.

Robertson Draw Fire

A Montana man pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to sparking the 30,000-acre Robertson Draw Fire south of Red Lodge last month.

The state is charging John Lightburn of Bridger with two counts of felony negligent arson. He’s also accused of misdemeanor criminal mischief. He appeared in Carbon County District Court on Wednesday before Judge Matthew Wald, who continued his bail of $7,500. Lightburn pleaded not guilty to all accusations. 

Prosecutors say the 55-year-old sparked the flame when fixing his motorbike in an area of the Custer Gallatin National Forest that is off-limits to motor vehicle traffic. Lightburn had been riding the bike there before the incident, court documents say. 

Lightburn is being held at the Gallatin County jail.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Robertson Draw fire burning south of Red Lodge is 69% contained. 

Section House Fire

A Crow Agency fire manager says lightning caused the 260 acre Section House fire burning on the south side of West Pryor Mountain on the Crow Reservation.

Three helicopters and four single engine air tankers are dumping water and retardant to slow the fire burning in grass, sagebrush and timber.

Acting Fire Management Officer Tracy Spang says the fire showed moderate fire behavior today. He says heavy equipment and hand crews are building containment lines and have the fire 30% contained.

Many of the firefighting resources currently working the containment are from the Crooked Creek Fire about an hour to the east in the Pryor Mountains along the southern border of the Crow Reservation.

Spang says resources ordered for the Section House Fire should be arriving on Thursday.

The lightning that started this fire struck Sunday night as a thunderstorm moved through the area, peppering the mountain with lightning strikes. The fire smoldered for more than 24 hours before igniting the grass and juniper around it. A reconnaissance flight first spotted the fire Tuesday afternoon. 

According to year-to-date fire statistics from the Northern Rockies Coordination Center 15% of Montana wildfires this year are caused by lightning while 85% are human caused.


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