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Wildfire burns into central Montana town, destroys houses

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A fire burned through the Gibson Flats area south of Great Falls, Mont., on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, destroying 11 homes, seven garages and 11 outbuildings, fire officials said. The fire was one of three wind-driven fires on Wednesday that forced evacuations in Montana. A fire near Denton led hundreds of residents to flee the central Montana town on Wednesday. Some buildings in the town were on fire. Another grass fire forced temporary evacuations near Browning, east of Glacier National Park.
A fire burned through the Gibson Flats area south of Great Falls, Mont., on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, destroying 11 homes, seven garages and 11 outbuildings, fire officials said. The fire was one of three wind-driven fires on Wednesday that forced evacuations in Montana. A fire near Denton led hundreds of residents to flee the central Montana town on Wednesday. Some buildings in the town were on fire. Another grass fire forced temporary evacuations near Browning, east of Glacier National Park. (Rion Sanders/The Great Falls Tribune via AP) Photo Gallery

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A late-season wildfire pushed by strong winds ripped through a tiny central Montana farming town overnight, burning several homes and grain elevators that had stood for more than a century, authorities said.

Officials were assessing the damage in Denton on Thursday morning while crews continued to fight the fire.

The fire burned “around 25 structures to include grain elevators and bridges,” the Fergus County Sheriff’s Office posted on social media Thursday morning. “Rural fire agencies are continuing to work to prevent any further spread or damage. This work will continue for several more days.”

About 300 residents of the town were evacuated early Wednesday afternoon when a fire that was started by a downed power line in an adjacent county the night before pushed across the drought-stricken agricultural land.

“Unfortunately we lost numerous houses on the Southside of town, but thankfully no one was hurt!” the sheriff’s office posted on Facebook on Wednesday night.

The evacuation order was expected to be lifted at noon Thursday, the sheriff’s office said, but only essential traffic will be allowed in the area.

The power outage due to the downed power lines shut off water pumps, leaving the town without water, officials said.

Other fires burned in Montana on Wednesday as gusty winds fanned the flames. A fire south of the city of Great Falls burned 11 homes and seven garages along with sheds and vehicles. About 65 people were evacuated, Cascade County officials said.

There were two grass fires near Browning on Wednesday where there were also power outages because the wind was knocking trees into power lines, officials said.

Winds were forecast at about 20 mph (32 kph) with gusts up to 36 mph (58 kph) in central Montana on Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

Several Montana cities also saw record high temperatures on Wednesday, with the central Montana town of Jordan reaching 76 degrees Fahrenheit (24 Celsius).

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