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‘Phenomenal Effort’ Stopped Grassland Fire Outside Havre

A throng of firefighters and residents rushed to extinguish a blaze north of Havre Sunday that would eventually scorch between 500 and 600 acres of private grassland.

“We threw everything at it that we had available and it worked out well,” said Kremlin Volunteer Fire Department Chief Kody Peterson, who was the incident commander.

Havre Fire Chief Mel Paulson said there were at least 100 firefighters — most from volunteer departments — and residents who converged on the blaze, catching and containing it within hours.

“I think it was a phenomenal effort,” Chief Paulson said.

Law enforcement eventually closed off Shepherd Road, which in some areas was covered in thick haze. (Paul Dragu, Herald photo)

The fire was reported shortly after 1 p.m., and by 4 p.m. had been contained.

The list of responding agencies is hefty: the Kremlin, Bear Paw, St. Joe, Box Elder, Chinook and Wildhorse volunteer fire departments; and firefighters from the Havre Fire Department.

Law enforcement — the Montana Highway Patrol, Hill County Sheriff’s Office, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and U..S Border Patrol — contributed to the effort with traffic control. Shepherd Road, an arterial road to the incident, was closed until the fire was contained.

The day’s wind made things all the more difficult.

“It gets nerve-wracking when you got winds pushing toward a bunch of houses,” said Josh Bebee, Bear Paw Volunteer Fire Department chief.

“It was really pushing that fire fast,” Paulson said. “That fire was moving.”

Parts of Shepherd Road was covered in thick haze and billows of smoke could be seen from miles away.

Fortunately, no one was hurt and no structures were burned. For what it was, the result couldn’t have been better.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.

Hill County Commissioner Mark Peterson watched from a distance. In an email to Don Pyrah of the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, he wrote:

“This was a fire that started in one fire district and moved to another. You would never have known it by the firefighters and the incident command. It was totally seamless. It was a job very well done. Something we all can be very proud of.

“We all should be very proud of the firefighters and their supporting units. If you know one, THANK them. These fire departments have worked hard to train and to put together dependable and effective fire units. Support them in any way you can.”

Smoke from the fire could be seen miles away. This photo was taken from the Ice Dome off Fifth Avenue. (Paul Dragu, Herald photo)
Emergency vehicles rushed through Havre to the scene of the fire. (Paul Dragu, Herald photo)

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