Firefighters Battle Lightning-Caused Fire In Drought-Stricken Campbell County

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Firefighters in drought-stricken Campbell County continued Tuesday to battle a lightning-caused wildfire that was ignited Monday.

About 70 firefighters were busy Tuesday battling the 150-acre Raccoon Ridge Fire in southern Campbell County, one of several wildfires that began during the Fourth of July holiday.

As of Tuesday morning, the fire was just around 25% contained, according Kate Eischeid, batallion chief for the Campbell County Fire Department.

Eischeid said crews from her department, assisted by firefighters from Johnson County, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management battled the blaze through the night.

Also present to help were single-engine air tankers that dropped fire retardant on the flames.

The rapidly spreading fire threatened several nearby residences, prompting some evacuations on Monday, although Eischeid said that to her knowledge as of Tuesday, the homeowners have since returned home and the area is no longer under threat. The fire is being pushed by brisk winds in the area already hit hard by dry conditions.

Before the Raccoon Ridge Fire broke out, CCFD had been working around the clock to extinguish two other grassfires in the northern end of the county: the Beason Fire near the Montana border and the Wild Horse Creek Fire, which was contained after burning almost 1,000 acres.

A small amount of rain fell on the area of the Raccoon Ridge Fire Monday, but Eischeid said not enough moisture fell to halt the spread of the flames.

“It wasn’t enough rain to be sufficient,” she said, “but we’ll take what we can get.”

Fire officials knew a difficult fire season was coming, Eischeid said, given the drought conditions and the relatively mild winter and spring. 

“This comes in cycles,” she said. “We assumed that this is where we would be at this point and we are.”

At this point, rain will do very little to help prevent further fires, Eischeid added, given that grasses already gone to seed and are dormant, and more rain will just going to create mud.

Eischeid urged residents to obey current fire restrictions within the county, noting that at least two grassfires have been tied to illegal fireworks or fires.

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