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

A 7,000 acre fire in Fergus County has closed a stretch of Highway 81

 A plume of smoke rises from the South Moccasin Fire burning 7 miles northwest of Lewistown, MT, Oct. 04, 2021.
Brooke Ruckman
A plume of smoke rises from the South Moccasin Fire burning 7 miles northwest of Lewistown, MT, Oct. 04, 2021.

Extreme fire behavior with wind-driven runs and ember spotting has pushed the South Moccasin Fire to some 7,000 acres as of noon Tuesday. The fire is burning in timber and short grass 7 miles northwest of Lewistown in Fergus County and is zero percent contained.

A Department of Natural Resources and Conservation County Assist Team took command Tuesday morning. Helicopters, fixed wing aircraft and ground resources are part of the firefighting efforts.

The Denton Highway, Montana Highway 81, is closed from mile marker 28.8 to mile marker 42 including the junction with US Highway 191. Residents and visitors are asked to avoid the area as much as possible to allow firefighters to continue their efforts unheeded.

The Northern Rockies Coordination Center reports 33 structures are threatened, although the Fergus County Sheriff’s Office has not issued any pre-evacuation orders.

In Rosebud County, a coal seam has been identified as the cause of the 300 acre Coal Bank Fire burning south of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in the Zook Creek Area, southwest of Birney.

A Montana Bureau of Land Management spokesperson reports the Coal Bank Fire is showing extreme fire behavior and burning to the north.

County, state and federal resources including air resources and smokejumpers are on site. The Coal Bank Fire was reported Tuesday morning and is zero percent contained. Much of eastern Montana is under a red flag warning until Wednesday night.

Kay Erickson has been working in broadcasting in Billings for more than 20 years. She spent well over a decade as news assignment editor at KTVQ-TV before joining the staff at YPR. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, with a degree in broadcast journalism. Shortly after graduation she worked in Great Falls where she was one of the first female sports anchor and reporter in Montana.
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