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Wildfire continues to spread in Montana



Published: Tue, September 5, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



BIG TIMBER, Mont. (AP) -- An enormous wildfire that has prompted the evacuation of hundreds of people continued to spread Monday, though winds didn't kick up as much as firefighters had feared, a Forest Service official said.

"We're still working on this thing on all fronts," said Dixie Dees, a fire information officer.

The fire, in south-central Montana, has burned 26 homes and is classified as the nation's No. 1 firefighting priority. It has spread across 180,000 acres, or more than 280 square miles, since lightning sparked it Aug. 22. It was only about 20 percent contained, authorities said.

The fire is not following the typical pattern: growing more active in the afternoon, then calming as darkness falls, Dees said.

"We'll probably have an active fire until midnight or so before it quiets down," she said.

About 770 firefighters and support personnel are working the blaze, on the ground and with helicopters and heavy air tankers. Fire officials have ordered more people and equipment to help fight the fire in anticipation of a difficult week.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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