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Crews tackle two wildfires in Fergus County

Posted at 8:20 PM, Aug 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-08 22:42:00-04

From Friday night through Saturday, crews tended to two fires in Fergus County - the Porphyry Fire east of Judith Peak, and another wildfire approximately eight miles northwest of Winifred.

By 9 a.m. Saturday, Fergus County DES Coordinator Ben Phillips said the Porphyry Peak Fire was 90 percent contained. Phillips explained how the smaller wildlands fire started. “There was a lightning strike the night before, smoldered...We got a hot spot crew on it quickly and that’s what saved us from actually having a big fire there,” Phillips said.

Phillips believes no land or structures were damaged in that fire. “This was all in the timber and I don’t know that there’s any actual crop loss. They drew the line at the nearest field so I don’t believe there’s any losses,” Phillips said.

Phillips said DES will keep a hot spot crew and two helicopters monitoring the fire today and then will have a few firefighting crews watch over the hot spots for a couple days after.

However, the more than 1,000-acre fire burning about eight miles northwest of Winifred will require more tending before it’s fully contained.

Phillips explained that the Winifred fire was a reburn from a lightning strike. “It is still burning...We had the firefighters work through most of the night drawing line on the north side of the fire,” Phillips said.

Firefighters tended to the south side of the fire Saturday, seeing little growth in the fire during their efforts.

Phillips also was pleased to share that the fire didn’t burn through more land while crews worked overnight, meaning the last acreage burned count of 1,050 is likely not far off. “There was no growth in acreage overnight...I’m guessing it’ll be over 1100,” Phillips said.

While total damage is still unknown, Phillips said the fire certainly caused some damage to crops. “The majority of that fire was actually in coulees and timber but we do know that there’s crop damage in some areas. We do not have any estimates as of right now because there’s still fire in the crop lands,” Phillips said.

In light of these wildfires, Phillips offered some safety tips for residents in areas that are susceptible to wildfires. “I definitely think that everybody that lives anywhere near where you can have wildfires should have a contingency plan,” Phillips said, “That plan should consist of an evacuation route. Know where the important papers are. Have important contact information. Just do what you can to keep yourself and your family safe.”

He added that being aware of factors that make a wildlands fire more probable (high winds speeds, high temperatures, and low humidity levels) is key.

While fires are more likely to take place during fire season, the months between July through September, fire danger can present itself any time throughout the year. “It can happen at any time of year...In the last two years, just here in Fergus County, we’ve had fires in December, February, October, and then the regular fire season,” Phillips said.

Phillip also advised the public to take the following precautions during fire season.

“Just be extra careful. Make sure that if you're traveling off-road, your equipment is in top shape. Make sure if you’re pulling a trailer, your chains aren’t dragging. If you have a campfire, make sure it’s dead out before you leave. Just those little things make a big difference,” Phillips said.

Crews tackle wildfires in Fergus County