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Flathead Reservation on fire

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RONAN, Mont. - The Flathead Reservation is in jeopardy of burning up.

This past week fires burned 20,000 acres of forest land and as of Aug. 10, no fires had been contained.

The cost in timber loss to the Salish and Kootenai Tribes was estimated at $23 million.

"We are burning in the southwest corner of the reservation. There was an evacuation alert. We saved some structures. People with asthma and other respiratory problems are to stay inside and use air conditioning," said Rich Jansen, information officer for fire control on the Flathead Reservation.

He said there were so many fires going on and there were limited resources to fight the blazes. The tribe and federal governments closed the forests to any travel and it was recommended that people car pool.

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There is an inability to get enough people to fight the fires. Eric Shallock, fire information dispatch in Ronan, said the tribes tried to get firefighters from other tribal nations, but the BIA and federal agencies stepped in and "squashed the idea." He said the population in the vicinity of the Flathead fires takes a lower priority than ones burning around Missoula.

Some local people volunteered heavy equipment, but need to be briefed on safety measures before they can be utilized.

On the Flathead Reservation the highest priority warning has been issued. Nearly 300 personnel, including five Canadian crews are in the Missoula Valley.

Two fires were not even manned on the Flathead Reservation, at the peak of the fire activity.

The bad news is two months remain in the fire danger season. The good news is the temperatures are expected to lower in coming weeks. The fire season began early this year, Shallock said.