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Three Wildfires Hit Western Montana

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High winds and hot temperatures fuel three wildfires in western Montana.

Quick action by firefighters slow these new fires. The Bitterroot Interagency Dispatch Center says two helicopters and 19 people are on the scene of a seven-acre fire southwest of Darby that popped up Thursday afternoon.

The Hawk Creek fire was spotted at about 5:30 Thursday evening, and scorched three acres in the Schwartz Creek area near Clinton.

Boyd Hartwig with the Lolo National Forest says this fire had the potential to threaten several structures before crews fully contained it. The cause is under investigation.

The Fire Creek Fire continues to burn northwest of the Stark Lookout in the Nine Mile area. That's about 22 miles from Missoula.

At last check, that fire covers 7.5 acres in hard-to-reach terrain and officials say they suspect lightning set it off.

Fire fighting pretty much died down by nightfall, but they're going to pick it up again Friday morning.

Around 3:00 p.m. Thursday, someone in the Stark Lookout tower noticed a blaze in the Huson hills. About 30 people came out to fight the flames, but once it gets dark out they'll have to stop. It's just too densely wooded to get through without some light.

"I wouldn't necessarily say it's a bad fire. It's given us some problems because it's in heavy, dead, and down. There's quite a few snags in the area, which obviously poses a higher level of danger to the firefighters," explained Mike Noel, the district operations assistant fire management officer for the Lolo National Forest.

Thursday, they had helicopters picking up water from nearby ponds and dumping it on the fire. The blaze touches national forest land as well as private land. There is a home nearby, but officials say it isn't in any real danger yet.

"Only mother nature knows that for sure," said Noel, "Generally, fires lay down at night."

They've ordered a 20-person hand crew and two more helicopters to help fight Friday.

They couldn't really give an estimate for how the long fire could burn since weather will play such a big role.

Hartwig also said that the Fire Creek Fire is located near another wildfire, burning on tribal land in the Nine Mile Valley. He said that fire has scorched roughly 20 acres, but tribal fire managers are keeping an eye on it.

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