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CNN Today

Western Wildfires: Protecting Your Own

Aired August 17, 2000 - 2:35 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Now to the West, where the fire situation is anything but under control. New blazes break out every day. One million acres are in flames across 13 Western states. Roughly 25,000 firefighters are working the lines, trying to extinguish the advancing flames. More Army troops are being requested to help fight the fires. But, as CNN's Rusty Dornin tells us, some residents are taking matters into their own hands.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Eighty-foot pines tower above the cabin that John Blahnik's (ph) grandfather built, trees that could add dangerous fuel to a fire. In the face of uncertainty, Blahnik took some drastic measures.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just don't know what's going to happen. All we can do right now is just try to clear as much ground as we can around this, just try to protect it.

DORNIN: These trees lie just over the hill from Blahnik's cabin. What happens there can happens at Blahnik's place, depending on which way the wind blows. So Blahnik waters down what he can and debates on how long to stay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It depends on how critical it gets. I'd like to be here if it getting close, just to make sure we're doing everything we can do.

DORNIN: Tonia Bloom (ph) and her family were forced to evacuate, but came back when they could to feed their sheep. This week, they were told they could go home, but they better keep one eye on an escape route.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do not plan to move back the photographs or the artwork. We'll start sleeping here, but we'll kind of keep everything in those duffel bags, so if we had to leave again, we could.

DORNIN: Bags packed and ready to go, the facts of life for hundreds of people in Montana's Bitterroot Valley.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With fires of this magnitude and with a drought of this severity, it's just simply not going to be over until it rains. DORNIN: Something people here just aren't counting on anytime soon.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, Darby, Montana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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