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Some Montana fires could last for at least 1 more month



SEELEY LAKE, Mont. (AP) – Some evacuation orders have been lifted in areas near Montana wildfires but many were still burning Wednesday and officials said residents should be prepared for some of the fires to last for at least another month.

“It’s probably going to get worse before it gets better,” Lincoln Fire Chief Zach Muse told residents, the Great Falls Tribune reported. “We’re just going to have to hunker down and get through it together.”

Northeast of Lincoln, some evacuation orders were lifted Tuesday night. But mandatory evacuation orders remain in effect for residents of Elk Meadows due to a growing fire. Other people should be prepared to leave, said Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton. The fire could continue burning into October.

Meanwhile, the Missoula County sheriff’s office downgraded a mandatory evacuation order for part of the western Montana town of Seeley Lake, which continues to deal with hazardous air quality due to nearby wildfires.

Residents of the 429 homes on the east side of Montana Highway 83, along with schools and businesses, still remain under an evacuation warning, said Sheriff T.J. McDermott, and are asked to be ready to leave again on short notice.

The Seeley Lake-area residents were evacuated on Aug. 28 because of a fire caused by lightning that has burned 187 square miles (485 square kilometers) of forest land since it started on July 24.

Seeley-Swan High School students began the school year in an administrative building at a luxury resort on Tuesday. Seeley Lake Elementary School plans to start classes next Monday, Principal Chris Stout said.

After a weekend of significant fire growth across the state, cooler weather gave crews a bit of a break. However, the temperatures are expected to warm up over the rest of the week and fire officials say the fire season is far from over.

In Glacier National Park, heavy smoke from a wildfire caused poor air quality but also helped stifle the fire’s growth.

The fire destroyed the Sperry Chalet last week and fire crews were setting up a high capacity sprinkler system to create a fire break near the Lake McDonald Lodge complex. Some areas around Lake McDonald remain under an evacuation order. The fire is not expected to be contained until November.

In northwestern Montana, many members of an Amish community who were evacuated before 10 homes and 30 outbuildings were destroyed west of Eureka over the weekend are staying with families in or near Rexford, on the east shore of Lake Koocanusa.

“Everyone’s kind of in shock. We’re just kind of dazing around here,” Darinda Yoder told the Missoulian.

Residents were able to get back in and retrieve schoolbooks and desks. Classes will resume in a barn for the school’s 27 students, Yoder said.

In northcentral Montana, evacuation orders were lifted Tuesday on a fire in the Bears Paw Mountains as crews have it 85 percent contained.

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