Arid West in Christmas Fire Emergency

December 6, 2021

Those brushfires make for tough skiing.

Casper (Wyoming) Star Tribune:

DENTON, Mont. — By Friday morning as the fog lifted from the small community of Denton in central Montana, residents and work crews started cleaning up as the destruction left by a fast-moving, wind-fueled fire became clear.

The West Wind fire burned 25 homes, 18 secondary structures and six commercial buildings, according to the state Department of Natural Resources County Assist Team.

The buzz of machinery echoed throughout town as teams with chainsaws felled burned trees, backhoe operators piled debris that used to be homes and crews augured holes for new power poles. Power was expected to be restored to the community by the end of the day Friday.

While the town had a 275,000-gallon storage tank full of water, that was depleted quickly with people in town running sprinklers, hoses and anything else trying to keep their homes safe, Joel Barber said. One sprinkler was still running Friday morning. Other water sources were also drained.

We ran the spring dry; it was nothing but well water,” Barber said, adding that was partly attributable to drought this year but that he expected the spring to be replenished soon.

Pyrah said the fire started just off Highway 81 west of town around midnight Tuesday, and he was notified shortly after it was reported. He was immediately concerned given the unseasonably warm weather, dry fields and strong winds.

“December, 60 degrees at 4 o’clock in the morning’s not normal,” Pyrah said.

Like much of the state, central Montana including the Denton area remains in extreme drought. In nearby Lewistown, precipitation for the calendar year to date is 10.19 inches compared to an average of 16.69 inches. The average temperature for November was more than 7 degrees above normal, according to the National Weather Service in Great Falls.


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