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Wawa Fire burns 2,100+ acres in CMR National Wildlife Refuge

Posted at 5:36 PM, Jul 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-23 20:18:11-04

GREAT FALLS – Officials say they’ve seen a significant decrease in fire activity at the Wawa Fire that’s burning in central Montana.

The fire is burning on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge and is threatening sage grouse habitat. The blaze had burned an estimated 2,100 acres in remote wilderness, about 40 miles southeast of Zortman as of Monday morning.

Officials say they are taking measures to protect the sage grouse; better weather conditions on Monday will likely enable crews to initiate a burn out.

They hope this will minimize or prevent damage to the habitat from the fire. Officials say due to the fire’s location, gaining access and using equipment have been challenges.

Mike Granger, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Fire Management Officer for the State of Montana, says they’ve been using mostly hand crews along with aerial water drops to fight the fire. Because of the fire’s location, retardant is not being used.

Granger says establishing control lines took longer than normal, but crews are accomplishing the work with little impact to the wilderness. Around 70 people were assigned to the Wawa fire as of Monday morning.

The agencies involved in fighting this fire include the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Reporting by Keeley Van Middendorp for MTN News