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Montana's Lodgepole Complex Is The Size Of New York City

Greater Eagle Fire Department

The largest wildfire in the nation burns right now in Montana, and it's the size of New York City. The 353 square mile Lodgepole Complex fire is burning in Garfield and Petroleum counties of eastern Montana.

It's burning in timber, grass, dead and downed trees, sagebrush as well as primary core sage grouse habitat south of Highway 200. It has destroyed 12 homes, fencing and haystacks.

The area is again under a red flag warning today with hot and dry conditions and gusty winds.

Public Information Officer for the Lodgepole Complex fire, Geremy Olson, says the weather right now makes for very dangerous firefighting conditions.

"Firefighters are experiencing anywhere from 8 to 10 to 12 foot flame lengths in that sage brush and in the timber draw areas and stuff," said Olson. "It's just not safe to fight fires in there."

Credit Bureau of Land Management of Montana, Dakotas

Some 300 fire personnel from 34 states, some as far away as New Hampshire and Florida, are working the fire lines with a lot of help from the fixed wing and helicopters in heavy use.

As of this morning, the fire is 5% contained but Olson says those numbers could go up as the fire lines are checked through the day.

Credit Western MT Type II Interagency Incident Management Team
300 fire personnel from 34 states are collaborating in an effort to extinguish the Lodgepole Complex fire in eastern Montana.

Olson reminds everyone that safety is vital and if someone feels concerned or threatened by fire activity, self-evacuate.

"People need to be prepared across the state of Montana. They need to be ready and don't wait for someone to ask you to evacuate your home or whatever," said Olson.

Just over 50 people who live north of HWY 200 in western Garfield County remain under evacuation.

Kay Erickson has been working in broadcasting in Billings for more than 20 years. She spent well over a decade as news assignment editor at KTVQ-TV before joining the staff at YPR. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, with a degree in broadcast journalism. Shortly after graduation she worked in Great Falls where she was one of the first female sports anchor and reporter in Montana.