Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
BLACKFEET INDIAN RESERVATION -
“We are fortunate there was no more damage than there was. I've never seen anything like it,”
commented Wayne Smith, communications director of the Blackfeet Nation, as he spoke about the two major grass fires that burned simultaneously across a large portion of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation late Wednesday.
He described the two large fires that were dubbed the "Y" fire and the "Boy" fire, respectively. The "Y" fire ran straight down Highway 2 where it meets Highway 89 and burned 6,000 acres. It ran 18 miles long and about two miles wide. The "Boy" fire was 19 miles long and engrossed some 12,000 acres.
As large as the fires were, there were no loss of lives or reported injuries.
“It was an act of the Creator that no one got hurt,”
"We have reports that the fire came right up to some people's porches. Only one house and other structures were destroyed by the fires."
Smith cited the courageous work of many local fire departments that battled the fires that were fueled by 30 per mile winds, with gusts at times over 60 miles per hour.
"At least two fire departments traveled through the mountains to get to us," said Smith. He reports that help came from about a 100 mile radius of the Tribe.
"People stepped up when they were needed," stated a grateful Smith.
Some 400 people were evacuated from their home, including 200 staff and students at tribal boarding school. The Red Cross came to set up a temporary housing shelter at the old Eagle Shield Center. Many tribal members opted to stay in homes of relatives on the reservation.
The fires were reportedly started by down power lines that resulted from high winds. The electrical lines started the grass to burn.
"We normally have a whole lot more snow that we do now. We have not had snow in about three weeks," said Joseph No Runner, a Blackfeet tribal citizen.
"We've had abnormally high temperatures for this time of year. Today it will be in the 50s," he told the Native News Network yesterday morning.
By yesterday morning the fires were contained. The Blackfeet Wildland Fire Management department is in the process of determining the monetary damage of the fires.
posted January 6, 2011 6:00 am est
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