While much of the nation focused its attention on Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath in Texas, and is now shifting to the rapidly approaching Hurricane Irma toward Florida, there is another part of the country facing a dire emergency that has gone largely unnoticed.
According to KUSA, some 200,000 square miles spanning several western states are considered at extreme risk for wildfire as new blazes continue to pop up and burn on a near-daily basis, even while firefighting crews are still battling to gain control over earlier fires.
At the heart of this literal conflagration is the great state of Montana, where more than half a million acres have already been left smoldering by raging wildfires.
In fact, KRTV reported that, as of Monday, more than of 883,000 acres have been burned across the state, despite the valiant efforts of more than 4,000 firefighters supported by hundreds of National Guard troops attempting to tame dozens of separate fires.
The map above shows just some of the largest of the fires raging across the state, those that have burned more than 1,000 acres already. Many other blazes that have yet to reach that size; those that have been largely contained or pose little threat to lives or homes have not been included.
According to the Great Falls Tribune, Gov. Steve Bullock declared on Friday via an executive order that the entirety of Montana was in a state of disaster, a move that freed up more resources to be utilized and allowed for the complete mobilization of the state’s National Guard.
“Over the coming days, additional National Guard resources will be mobilized to continue to support the men and women fighting these fires,” stated Bullock. “Our top priority remains firefighter safety and protecting Montanans and their property.”
Already some 350 National Guardsmen have been deployed in the fight against the wildfires, supplementing line crews and providing security and roadblocks in certain areas.
The Billings Gazette recently published a compelling and heartbreaking collection of pictures of the fight against the wildfires, contrasting utter devastation with heroic self-sacrifice.
Unfortunately, even as parts of Montana have been burning for months, there is no real end in sight yet, as prevailing weather conditions will likely only fuel already raging infernos and spark entirely new ones in the drought-stricken state.
As we watch natural disasters like major hurricanes wreak destruction in various heavily populated parts of the country, let us not forget the other less populated parts of the country that are experiencing disasters of epic proportions as well, as they need our prayers and support as much as anyone.
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