Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Winter may be here, but the fire season isn't over yet. A fire started north of Big Timber on Monday, and the strong winds, gusting to 80 mph, whipped it into a serious burn; the U.S. Forest Service estimates the total is at least 20,000 acres. The fire burned an area 20 miles long by five miles wide, from the ignition point in the foothills of the Crazy Mountains to US Highway 191 along the valley floor, before Tuesday's precipitation put it mostly out. The small town of Melville was burned, although most of the occupied houses were saved, and burned power poles took out the electricity when they fell; one bridge burned, closing the highway. Crews are already working on the bridge and power lines, but the burned pastures and haystacks will be hurting ranchers for months to come; in many cases, it would have been their winter pasture and feed for cattle and sheep.