Jan 5, 2012 1:20 AM by Katie Stukey, David Sherman
At least three fires in and around Browning have now torched at least 10,000 acres and destroyed several buildings.
The first fire was the Cut Bank Creek/Boarding School Fire northeast of Browning. It started at approximately 5 p.m. on Duck Lake Road, and then spread east toward Boarding School housing area, triggering the evacuation of 73 children & 15 adults.
The fire then spread beyond to a nearby ranching area; that fire is now estimated to be more than 4,000 acres.
The second blaze, the Y Fire, started near the "y" intersection of Highway 89 and Highway 2 south of Browning.
DES coordinator Robert DesRosier says that seven structures have been destroyed, and 15 others are threatened. This blaze is estimated at more than 6,000 acres.
There are also reports of a third fire about 20 miles east of Browning; details are limited on that blaze, but there are unconfirmed reports that at least one Hutterite colony has been evacuated.
Highway 2 between Cut Bank and Browning is shut down at this hour, and Highway 89 south of Browning is reported to be closed as well.
DesRosier says crews will continue battling the fires through the night, and that none of the fires are contained at this point. Fire crews have come from several communities to join the fight, including Valier and Dupuyer.
The cause of the fires is not yet known, but powerful winds - sustained at more than 40 miles per hour and gusting to over 50 mph - are making conditions extremely hazardous.
KRTV friend Everett Holm says that people in and around Browning should tune their radios to 107.5; fiire updates about are being broadcast every 15 minutes.
KRTV friends Elizabeth and Rachel report that Cut Bank Moose Lodge and Cut Bank Civic Center are open for evacuees from the Browning fires.
We will update you as we learn more.
Click the images above for larger views; if you'd like to share your photos, you can upload them to our Breaking News gallery or send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of Angelika Harden-Norman: