July Fire courtesy of BLM
July Fire courtesy of BLM

LANDUSKY, Mont. (AP) — More crews and equipment were brought in Friday to help battle a wildfire south of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in north-central Montana as the growing fire threatened the small town of Landusky.

The July Fire, burning in grass and timber, grew from 2.5 square miles on Wednesday to over 14 square miles or 9,000 acres late Thursday, after the wind shifted and carried the fire several miles across the Little Rocky Mountains from the Zortman area to Landusky, the Bureau of Land Management said.

As of Thursday evening, the fire was 25 percent contained, the BLM reported. The fire is contained on the east flank and has not crossed State Route 66 to the south or 7 Mile Road to the east.

The Phillips County Sheriff’s Office issued a mandatory evacuation order for about 40 residents of Landusky on Thursday morning, one outbuilding had burned as of 6 a.m. Friday morning.

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Crews planned to work Friday to protect buildings and strengthen fire lines to prevent the further threat to the communities of Zortman and Landusky, the BLM said. Hot, dry weather is expected to continue, with possible thunderstorms that could bring wind and lightning, but little rain.

Three 20-member hotshot crews, several more engines and equipment were brought in as residents warily watched the rising smoke and flames. Crews worked around the town of Landusky on Thursday, cutting trees and undergrowth to eliminate fuel for the fire. 

Helicopters dropped buckets of water on hot spots and airplanes were dropping retardant on the hillsides between the town and the Little Rocky Mountains to the north.

One fire crew was stationed in town to extinguish any embers.

“Our goal is to corral this thing and keep it where it needs to be,” said Geremy Olson, press information officer for the Northern Rockies Incident Management Team.

The cause is still under investigation. Due to limited cell coverage in the area updates may be delayed. We will continue to report details as they come in.

*Video courtesy of the BLM