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Western Wildfires: Lightning Storms Have Firefighters Concerned in Western MontanaAired August 24, 2000 - 2:08 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: In the western U.S., fire, as you know, is the problem -- still is the problem. An area the size of Maine is now closed off in Montana due to wildfires.
CNN's Greg Lefevre joins us from Hamilton, Montana -- Greg.
GREG LEFEVRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you may get the sense, here, Natalie, it's raining in Montana. The problem is it's too little, it's too late. But it's raining nonetheless. This is a fearsome storm. So firefighters worry about these kinds of storms, because they bring lots of lightning. It has been raining probably for about 20 minutes or so. Firefighters say it's really not doing any good unless it rains for 20 hours, and that's really unlikely.
We had tragedy on the fire lines yesterday. In the state of Utah, two firefighters were killed when they were struck by lightning. That lightning storm was the predecessor to this one that came through -- coming through Hamilton now. These firefighters were amidst a crew of seven. They are called level two -- type two firefighters. They are trained, these men happen to have been prisoners in the Utah prison system. They were trained to fight fires. They were fighting a fire about 50 miles west of Salt Lake City. Two firefighters died, the five others were injured. They are now recovering in the hospital.
The burned out area around the western Montana region continues to grow larger and larger. At the Scalkahole (ph) fire, east of the town of Hamilton, where now up to 54,000 acres, that was the total as of last night, the wind blew some of those margins a little bit farther out and we will learn later on today just how much larger that fire is.
That fire danger has been enhanced by this lighting storm that is now blowing through the Bitterroot Valley. That's caused sheriff's investigators and other deputies to go door to door. In the western part of the city of Hamilton, it's called knock and talk. It is a preliminary to an evacuation order. Sheriff's deputies talk to the residents there, give them advice on when to move and how to get out of the area.
The concern there is what's called the Blodgett fire. The Blodgett fire has been burning northwest of Hamilton. It was sparked up a little bit by winds last night and no doubt the lighting strikes and wind that are occurring now in the area are further concern to firefighters.
The rains that fall here are really too little and not nearly enough for the firefighters to really cause any elation, if you will. As one firefighter said a little bit earlier on, the drops are falling so far apart we could probably drive between them.
Greg Lefevre, CNN, reporting live, in Hamilton, Montana.
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