HELENA, Mont. – A month-old wildfire flared up in Montana, forcing the evacuation of hundreds more homes and devouring another large chunk of forest as the drought-stricken state struggles with one of its worst wildfire seasons in years.
The glow from the flare-up Wednesday night and early Thursday was visible from the airport in Missoula, about 20 miles north of the blaze, said fire information officer Jordan Koppen.
Just over 500 homes have been evacuated by the flames since last weekend and another 650 are under an evacuation warning. Missoula County officials said Thursday more evacuations are likely and they plan to ask the National Guard to help.
The fire near the community of Lolo has burned 23.5 square miles (61 square kilometers) of timber. A Hot Shot firefighter working on the fire — 29-year-old Brent Witham of California — died on Aug. 2 when he was hit by a falling tree.
A report released Thursday shows drought across the entire state, with two-thirds of the state in “severe” drought conditions — or worse. Drought conditions in an area around Fort Peck Reservoir of northeastern Montana are rated as exceptional, with crops and livestock languishing under parched conditions.
Smoke from numerous wildfires blankets the state, leaving the air unhealthy in Missoula and Seeley Lake.