HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- A fire burning in the ranching country north of the Missouri River headwaters made a major run during the night, burning over ranches and threatening a major power line to the Pacific Northwest early Friday.
"The sky to the east is just glowing red for miles," said Mike Koehnke of Townsend, disaster and emergency services chief in Broadwater County.
Koehnke said the fire was very close to the power line feeding electricity from the Colstrip generating complex in southeastern Montana to Seattle, 750 miles to the west. A Montana Power Co. official said early Friday the 500,000-volt line had not been damaged.
The blaze was among 86 fires burning 1.1 million acres in 11 Western states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Idaho. Nationally, wildfires have burned about 5.1 million acres so far -- more than twice the 10-year average.
Koehnke estimated the fire, fed by heavy timber, advanced 5 miles in two hours late Thursday and was about 5 miles south of U.S. 12, a major east-west highway.
The fire started Tuesday afternoon, apparently from a spark from harvesting equipment working in a grainfield.
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