HELENA, Mont. — The Latest on Montana’s wildfires (all times local):
Fire crews from across the nation are arriving in Montana to help deal with a massive complex of fires that has already destroyed 12 homes.
Thirty-four states have sent firefighters and other resources as the total amount of farmland and rangeland scorched by the four lightning-caused fires in eastern Montana exceeds 350 square miles (914 kilometers).
Besides the burned homes, 50 others scattered across the rolling, open landscape are under evacuation orders. Ranchers fearing for their cattle cut open fences to let them escape as the fire approached.
With 18 large fires now burning across Montana, the National Interagency Fire Center says the state has more than twice as many large wildfires burning currently than the next-highest state, Alaska.
Gov. Steve Bullock has declared a fire emergency, which will allow the state to use the National Guard for firefighting efforts.
Ranchers are cutting fences to give their cattle an escape route ahead of fast-moving fires that have destroyed 12 homes and burned 350 square miles of rangeland in eastern Montana.
The four fires have been burning since Wednesday south of the Upper Missouri River Breaks. The 300 firefighters have been frustrated as the powerful blazes driven by wind jump rivers and fire breaks cleared by bulldozers.
The fires are burning through private farmland with scattered homes, along with a mix of rolling open land and timber-choked river bottoms.
Fire spokesman Tim Engrav said Monday the burned homes were discovered only recently and could have burned last week. One heat-related injury has been reported.
He says as the fire began to spread, ranchers joined in the firefighting to protect their property and cut their fences to free their livestock.