The wildfire burning just 10 miles from Helena, Montana blew up from 20,000+ acres on Tuesday to 31,000 acres by Wednesday. The fires in Montana and other states around the west are getting national coverage, though in my opinion, not enough is being said about how wildfire is an important part of the natural cycle and the fact that some of these fires are being "allowed" to burn is a perfectly reasonable way to manage the fires. If the fires were put out now, the threatened areas would eventually burn anyway -- and often will burn even more drastically becasue of the natural buildup of fuels.
The New York Times reported on Wednesday:
Firefighting crews in Montana battled the four top priority wildfires in the West on Wednesday, blazes that have led to the evacuation of hundreds of people.
In a normal year, Wednesday would have been the beginning of the summer fire season in Montana, but drought has put most of the state two to three weeks ahead of schedule and more hot, dry weather is forecast.
It's going to be a long season,'' said Warren Bielenberg, fire information officer for the Lewis and Clark National Forest in northwest Montana.
The No. 1 priority for firefighters Wednesday in the West was a blaze in the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness north of Helena that had blackened 31,238 acres, or about 49 square miles. Residents of 60 homes southeast of Wolf Creek were evacuated Tuesday, adding to residents of at least 60 other homes that were evacuated earlier.
The fire was moving north toward Holter Lake, a popular recreation area, and through a wildlife management area. It was about 25 percent contained but was expanding Wednesday toward evacuated areas to the southeast, where hand crews, aircraft and bulldozers worked to build lines and keep it in the wilderness ..."
To all who have written in concern for our safety in Helena, I just want to reassure you that we are fine -- the fire is 10 miles from the city and so far no one's home has burned. The firefighters are doing an outstanding job of protecting people's homes and animals. Still, your prayers are appreciated, here and all over the west where drought is making the 2007 fire season so much worse. Thank you! -- Maureen