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Powerful winds fanned Wednesday's fires

Field fire east of Great Falls on January 13, 2021
Posted at 7:05 PM, Jan 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-14 21:05:00-05

GREAT FALLS — Powerful winds kept rural fire crews in Cascade County busy on Wednesday. Gusts of more than 70 miles per hour fanned several wildfires east of town, which ignited from downed power poles.

Fortunately, there were no injuries, and no homes or structures were damaged.

Belt Rural Volunteer Fire Department Chief Travis Johnson said one fire near Highwood Road burned 175 acres.

Fire crews from Malmstrom Air Force Base, Great Falls International Airport, and Highwood provided mutual aid. The Cascade County Sheriff’s Office and MDT assisted with road blocks and traffic diversion.

"By the time we'd driven the five miles to it it was blown out of its infancy,” he said. “And to be totally honest if there hadn been a plowed field at the head of this fire we'd probably still be there working."



While on scene, reports came in for two more fires on Highway 89 and in Judith Basin County, along with a medical call.

Johnson said all crews were back in quarters by about 7 p.m. thanks to the quick effort of agencies and volunteers.

He does urge the public to stay away from any downed power lines they see as officials continue to clean up.