Montana wildfires continue to grow — here’s how you can help

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IDAHO FALLS — It’s wildfire season and a significant portion of the northwest is burning.

Oregon, Washington and Idaho have been hit hard this summer, but one of the states hit the hardest has been Montana where more than half a million acres have burned since July.

Evacuation orders have been issued throughout various parts of the state, specifically the north-central portion where a majority of active fires are.

“We’ve had a very, very active wildfire season in Montana starting at about July 6 with is customarily about two weeks a head of schedule,” Red Cross Communication Director Matt Ochsner said.

Over the weekend the Rice Ridge fire east of Seeley lake grew from 55,00 acres to 101,424 acres by Monday morning according to the Missoulian. The paper reports more than 40 incident management teams are responding to the fires.

Ochsner said there are currently 40 major wildfires burning throughout the state all at different containment levels.

For a complete list of fires burning in Washington, Idaho and Montana click here.

The western wildfires have contributed to a large increase in overall burned land. Over 7 million acres of land throughout the United States have burned this year compared to last year, when just over 4 million acres burned. The fires are creating smoke that is traveling from Montana southeast all the way through to Colorado.

Click here to view the active fire map in Montana.

“All of (the Montana fires) are kind of in the northwest part of the state or north central part of the state. The wildfire season started out over in eastern Montana. But our big areas are the Seeley Lake area,” Oschner said.

Ochsner said the Red Cross of has been working around the clock to give aid to those in need. He said 15 shelters throughout the state have opened since early July. Over the weekend six additional shelters were opened to help families and individuals evacuating.

The American Red Cross of Montana chapter is currently transporting its emergency response truck to the Seeley and Ovando areas to give food and aid to those in need.

“Making sure the people who have stayed behind rather than evacuate have their food and water and those kinds of needs taken care of. The vehicle will also be stocked with things like blankets too,” Oschner said.

Oschner said the best way to contribute to these efforts is to go online to RedCross.org to donate to the local chapter. Monetary donations are also accepted via mail to:

The Red Cross chapter in Montana is always accepting volunteers and offers free training to anyone who signs up.

There are numerous relief efforts throughout the state in addition to those of the Red Cross.

The United Way of Missoula County has set up a fund for victims affected by the Lolo Peak Fire, and Rice Ridge fire near Seeley Lake.

Locals can also help by clicking on any of the links below:

406 Family Aid Foundation

Garfield County Relief Fund

Bear Trust International