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Wildfire threatens lodge in Montana

Evacuations are ordered and part of U.S. 2 is closed as the blaze jumps control lines.

July 29, 2007|From the Associated Press

HELENA, MONT. — Wind helped a fire outside Glacier National Park jump firefighters' control lines Saturday, forcing evacuation orders at a lodge and closing a long stretch of highway, officials said.

When guests of the Summit Station Lodge left Saturday morning to go golfing, hiking, rafting and fishing, the fire was about eight miles away, said owner Jorge Simental. Within three hours, it was a mile away.

"There's nothing you can do now," said fire information officer Dale Warriner. "We are hitting a couple hot spots on the south side with some helicopters, trying to keep it from moving to the south."

Fire officials ordered guests and nearly all 18 employees to leave the lodge Saturday evening, Simental said. The manager and chief maintenance worker were going to stay "until they have to leave," he said.

Employees were trying to contact guests and gather their belongings to move them to other lodges, he said.

Fire crews were protecting the lodge and "tearing down some trees that are kind of dangerous, that are very close to cabins," Simental said.

A 24-mile stretch of U.S. 2 that connects a bridge to a campground was closed.

The fire had been listed at 420 acres but grew to about 1,000 acres, or about 1 1/2 square miles, Warriner said.

Another fire north of Helena was still keeping people away from recreation areas and homes, and fire crews appeared to be settling in for a long battle.

The fire, burning at nearly 10 square miles, was 15% contained.

Meanwhile, officials said a 1,030-square-mile fire in southern Idaho and northern Nevada could be contained as early as today.

"The rain really helped us the other day, which helped bring up that containment," said fire information officer Pam Bierce. "There are still some hot spots we're working on."

The lightning-sparked fire was about 80% contained, Bierce said.

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