Fire Danger Prevails
August 11, 2021
I live on Hopp Road and received a text message there was a fire out my way. I got in my Ford Explorer to research it out, and as soon as I was away from the shelterbelt, I saw the fire. It was already burning up Eagle Butte. The wind was strong, and I knew it wouldn’t be long before it was in the breaks. I drove over to the fire, seeing the combines leaving the fire behind them, so I was glad no equipment was destroyed. I learned later, no livestock were lost either.
I didn’t go into the area because they didn’t need me starting another fire in the tall grass and thick stubble. I took a few smoke pictures and decided to head home because I didn’t want to get in the way of the Fire trucks. I met them as I drove home, and I pulled off the road. They had already called for more trucks, a dozer, and a road grader.
Neighbors were starting to show up with small and large water tanks. Two farmers that I know of brought their tractors and double disks. Firefighters and neighbors kept coming.
At first, I thought the river would stop the fire’s advance, but the wind shifted, and the fire started to follow the river north.
The Big Sandy volunteer fire department handled the fire on Hopp Road/Eagle Butte. DNRC was also called in. They asked for a helicopter and did receive one. Unofficially 2,000 acres were burnt before the fire was put out.
I called the Chouteau County Sheriff’s office to learn of other fires in Chouteau County. The fire on Judith Ferry Road was caused by a Chain loose causing sparks as it was drug on the highway. About 40 acres were burnt.
There was a fire on US 87 around highway marker 37/38. It was a small grass fire caused by a camper sparking.
A combine caused a fire North of Carter, and it burnt 400 acres.
Geraldine had two fires; one was caused by a bailer which burned 65 acres. A combine caused the other, and it burned 38 acres.
There was a fire outside of Carter caused by a swather which sparked when it hit a rock. It burned 560 acres.
Out of Fort Benton Scenic overlook, another swather caused a 15-acre fire.
Chouteau County has given mutual aid to fires in Teton and Fergus counties.
There was a fire out on Warrick road caused by lightning; however, that one was in Blaine county.
All the fires in Chouteau County have been caused by equipment. I asked Rick Darlington about other counties ruling that farm equipment be pulled off during high heat index periods. He said Chouteau County Commissioners don’t want to tell farmers and ranchers what to do but hopes common sense would prevail going forward.
I have heard several farmers saying they shut down. A high heat index is when the temperature is high and the humidity is low Anything in the 90’s you should be using “extreme caution.” Anything above 100 is “extremely dangerous.” And then, if you add wind, it becomes extremely more dangerous. This would be true for home and business owners as well.
A job well done once again by our firefighters fighting all the county fires, and the community’s support has once again given us something to be proud of! Thank you.