Montana Public Radio

Grass Fires On Blackfeet Reservation Burn 39 Square Miles

Mar 29, 2021

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Two grass fires pushed by strong winds burned 39 square miles (101 square kilometers) of land on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, two unoccupied trailer homes and three telephone poles, Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services said.

One fire started Sunday west of the community of Blackfoot. About 600 residents were asked to evacuate as a precaution. A second fire started near Starr School.

No occupied homes were burned, there were no injuries and no cattle were lost, said Lyle St. Goddard, superintendent of the Chief Mountain Hot Shots.

The cause of the fires are being investigated. The National Weather Service reported sustained winds in the area were about 65 mph (105 kph) on Sunday, with gusts up to 85 mph (137 kph).

"It got pretty Western there," St. Goddard told the Great Falls Tribune. "It was moving so fast. We kept trying to get to the fire's edge, but it felt like a losing battle with how fast it was going."

Blackfeet Tribal Business Council Chairman Timothy F. Davis issued a declaration of emergency at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, the tribe said in a statement.

Evacuation orders were lifted Sunday night and the fire was considered 90% contained on Monday. A few haystacks and manure piles were still burning Monday, but because the grass around them had burned, St. Goddard didn't consider them a threat.

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