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MT fire burns homes

Western Montana was under an air-quality warning on Wednesday as a 180,000-acre wildfire spewed heavy smoke.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | September 6, 2006

Western Montana was under an air-quality warning on Wednesday as a 180,000-acre wildfire spewed heavy smoke.

The fire - 280 square miles in size - has destroyed 26 homes and 20 other buildings. Approximately 840 people who were evacuated from homes along the eastern edge of the fire were allowed to return Monday. But 265 households evacuated along the western edge were not yet being allowed back, according to fire reports.

The state Department of Environmental Quality said air quality in Bozeman was "very unhealthy." Some school sports practices and physical education classes were canceled or moved indoors.

Firefighters were still battling the blaze, with helicopters and airplanes dumping tens of thousands of gallons of water and fire retardant every day. The aircraft were pulled off the site at times on Tuesday, though, because the heavy smoke lessened visibility.

As of Wednesday, firefighters were keeping the blaze from growing. The blaze had been spreading mostly to the east and the north before a wind shift last week caused the fire's western edge to spread.


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