(MISSOULA) Fire managers report they made good progress fighting the 135,300 acre Rice Ridge Fire on Sunday.
Two community meetings have been scheduled to discuss the firefighting effort.
The first meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Monday at the Mission Bible Fellowship Church on Highway 83 in Seeley Lake. The second meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at the Ovando Elementary School Gym.
A large aerial burnout operation was started Sunday afternoon on the south side of the Rice Ridge fire north of Forest Road 477 and west of Monture Cabin. Fire managers say the operation is aimed at bringing the main fire to the fire line. Between 4,000 and 6,000 acres will be burned over a three-day period.
Evacuations and Warnings
Anyone seeking shelter may call the Red Cross of Montana at 1-800-272-6668. Shelters remain at Camp Paxson in Seeley Lake and at the Ovando Elementary School Gymnasium.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks once again closed the waters of Seeley Lake over the weekend due to firefighting efforts.
More than 4,000 firefighters (rural, volunteer, state, military, federal, and more) have been involved in the battle against the fires this season; two of them lost their lives fighting fires in western Montana.
As of Thursday, an estimated 1,005,803 acres have burned in Montana in 2017. The number of acres burned by lightning-caused fires is 914,574; the acres burned by human-caused fires is 91,229.
The total number of wildfires so far this year is 1,687. Of those, 746 were lightning-sparked, and 951 were caused by people/vehicles.
The figures come from the Northern Rockies Coordination Center, which is part of the National Interagency Fire Center. The number of fires and acreage is slightly less than the figures reported by the agency on Wednesday, due in part to more accurate mapping of fire perimeters.
According to Bullock's office, the cost of fighting the fires has reached about $284 million so far in 2017; an estimated $53 million of that came directly from the state budget, and the rest from federal monies.