Firefighters are continuing to battle two separate wildfires that are threatening the town of Lame Deer and surrounding communities.
The Lame Deer fire, which started Tuesday, Aug. 10, west of town, is 3,884 acres and zero percent contained, federal firefighters said in their Thursday update.
The Richard Spring fire was listed at 165,424 acres and zero percent containment as of Thursday. Fire managers expect the two fires will eventually merge.
Between 12 and 18 secondary structures have been lost, according to fire managers. So far, 187 firefighters are on the scene.
Both fires went under management by the federal Northern Rockies Incident Management Team 3 Thursday morning.
Firefighters are constructing dozer line and conducting burning operations around Ashland to help protect the community. The fire jumped the Tongue River north of Ashland earlier this week, but firefighters are working to contain that spot fire with indirect line.
On the southwestern side of the fire that was threatening the community of Lame Deer, crews used dozers and point-protection measures to protect the community. Wind-driven conditions pushed the fire across US 212 Wednesday evening between mile markers 45 and 48 which closed the highway in both directions.
Law enforcement agencies have evacuated the Ashland Divide, Rabbit Town, North Tongue River Road, and the St. Labre Indian Academy Campus. The communities of Lame Deer, Ashland, Muddy Cluster, and Rosebud Cut Across are also evacuated. Pre-evacuation notices are in effect for Rosebud Creek from Greenleaf Creek to Cherry Creek.
Highway 212 is currently closed between Ashland and Lame Deer to all non-residents. Highway 39 is currently open, but this could change at any time due to potential for changing conditions.
Evacuation centers are set up at the Northern Cheyenne Tribal School in Busby and the Multi-Purpose Building in Crow Agency. A Red Cross shelter at Broadus Elementary School is on standby but not currently open. The Colstrip Saddle Club can take horses. Visit the Rosebud County Disaster and Emergency Facebook page for additional evacuation location information.
A cold front moved into the fire location overnight with winds switching to the northeast and very limited rainfall over the southern portion of the Richard Spring Fire.
Firefighters expect the current weather conditions of winds and low relative humidity, combined with high temperatures to continue, which may sustain or increase fire behavior. Fire behavior has been extreme, displaying wind-driven runs in the brush, short grass, and timber.