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Big Arm fire burns 5 acres

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BIG ARM — With flame lengths spiking to 10 feet due to a gusty wind, a fire near Walking Horse Lane burned approximately five acres on Saturday. 

The caller who notified dispatch at 11 p.m. heard eight or nine explosions “and now there’s a big fire,” she said, according to John Fairchild, fire chief for the Polson Volunteer Fire Department. 

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Division of Fire is investigating the cause of the fire. 

Devlin LaFrombois, CSKT Division of Fire, said an investigation Saturday morning didn’t reveal an ignition source. At press time, LaFrombois was headed back to the fire site for further investigation.

Fairchild said he thought the fire would be out before he got there, but it continued to blaze and even torch trees. Volunteer firemen responded but initially they couldn’t get fire trucks to the location, so they hiked to the site in the dark. 

The temperature was 21 degrees, Fairchild said, and the grass was frozen.

“What we were dealing with is that clump or bunch grass, and we didn’t think it would burn, but it burned really well,” Fairchild said. Firefighters were on site until the fire was completely out and mopped up at 3:30 p.m.

Fairchild stressed that fuels are drier than they look. With open burning starting on March 1, he emphasized caution since it’s not as safe to burn as people think.  

“This is not the fire behavior we are used to seeing this time of year,” he added. 

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