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

Sanders County declares an emergency as fires burn near Noxon and Heron

A close-up aerial view of the Billiard Fire in Sanders County shows smoke rising up the steep slopes of a mountaintop on September 4, 2022.
The Billiard Fire on September 04, 2022.

Dangerous fire conditions prompted Sanders County commissioners to declare an emergency as three fires burn near communities.

The Bull Gin Complex burning in Sanders County grew to more than 1,000 combined acres as of Wednesday afternoon. No structures are threatened and no evacuations are in place.

The Government Fire is burning two miles northeast of Noxon, while the Billiard Fire is burning two miles northeast of Heron.

Sanders County Emergency Manager Bill Naegeli says county commissioners enacted the emergency declaration in order to allow the sheriff to evacuate residents and enable the county to access emergency funds, if needed.

“Well, we have a major river and a reservoir, a major highway and major railroad. We have several definite fire breaks, so I’m not worried about the Heron community or the Noxon community at all,” Naegeli said in a phone interview.

Incident Public Information Officer Sarah Rouse said high winds were expected to increase fire behavior Wednesday afternoon and evening. A public meeting on the fires is set for Thursday, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Noxon Volunteer Fire Department.

Naegeli urges Sanders County Residents to sign up for emergency alert texts by calling (406) 203-0082 or texting “ALERT” to the number.

Fireline probes the causes and consequences of the increasingly devastating wildfires burning in the U.S. It taps into the experience of firefighters, tribal land managers, climate scientists and more to understand how we got here and where we're going.

Austin graduated from the University of Montana’s journalism program in May 2022. He came to MTPR as an evening newscast intern that summer, and jumped at the chance to join full-time as the station’s morning voice in Fall 2022.

He is best reached by emailing
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