Wolf Point Herald

Windy Hill Fire Burns 860 Acres, Many Departments Respond



Firefighters Work Together To Fight Blaze -- Fire departments from Wolf Point, Poplar, Culbertson, Bainville, Circle, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Valley County Long Run responded to a grass fire Wednesday, July 23, east of Wolf Point on U.S. Hwy. 2. The Wolf Point Volunteer Fire Department initially responded to the blaze, which was fanned by hot, dry winds, at 3:24 p.m. The fire was mostly extinguished by 10 p.m. and BIA remained on the scene to monitor it for flareups.  All except the last picture were taken about a mile from the fire about 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 23.  The last picture, taken the next day, shows the fire burned up to U.S. Hwy. 2.   (Photos by John Plestina)

Hot, dry and windy conditions with temperatures above 90 degrees fanned a grass fire, Wednesday, July 23, that burned 860 acres east from Windy Hill Road and north from U.S. Hwy. 2.
Hwy. 2 was closed about four miles east of Wolf Point.
The Wolf Point Volunteer Fire Department responded to the fire at 3:24 p.m. and remained on the scene until 10 p.m. when BIA firefighters remained on the scene.
Fire departments from Poplar, Culbertson, Bain-ville, Circle and Valley County Long Run also assisted.
“It started at the highway. The cause is undetermined,” WPVFD Chief Shawn Eggar said.
Several structures were threatened but none were burned, including the home of a Roosevelt County commissioner and a house Eggar owns that is rented.
“I bet it was accidental;  a rock off a tire, piece of glass. It’s hard to tell when it started at the highway. It could be anything,” Eggar said.
“We released it to BIA about 10 p.m.,” he said, adding that the fire was out but still smoldering.
BIA monitored the scene for several days.
A call reporting a flare-up the next day turned out to be dust.

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Man Says Errant Bullets From Shooting Range Have Strayed Into His Yard


Steven Long holds bullets he said he picked up in his yard, which is located near a shooting range east of Wolf Point.   (Photo by John Plestina)

Errant bullets from a nearby shooting area have strayed into the yard of a home near Bridge Park, passing dangerously close to a house, according to the man who lives there.
Steven Long called the shooting area near the Montana Hwy. 13 bridge that separates Roosevelt and McCone counties, a renegade shooting range with a mound that he said does not offer enough protection for his home and yard that are located beyond the mound.
Long said he is worried about safety. He held a handful of bullets he said he picked up in his yard.
“Saturday evening [July 19], I was sitting in my yard trying to relax,” he said.
Then Long heard shots.
“They were right behind the yard,” he said.
“I’m not against people shooting and sighting their guns in. I think people might not know that people live around there,” Long said.
He said a public shooting range is needed, but in a different location where there are no homes nearby.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has managed the site that includes the Lewis and Clark Fishing Access Site since 1999.
“It was an old rifle range when [Wolf Point] gave us the site,” Woody Baxter, FWP Region 6 fishing access site manager, said.
“We’ve had up to two dozen phone calls [about stray bullets],” he said.
“He’s [Long] on a mission and I’m pretty supportive of him,” Baxter said. “I think he’s probably the third person who has lived in that home since I’ve been here [13 years].
He said FWP has the authority to close the shooting area.
“I would be glad to close it down, but I would need help from the sheriff’s office with enforcement,” Baxter said.
It is the shooting area where sheriff’s deputies qualify.
Baxter said Sheriff Freedom Crawford has asked FWP to turn the shooting area over to the county.
He added that if FWP closes the site to shooting, he wants the sheriff’s office to find a new location for qualification and the same or another area for public use for shooting sports and for sighting in rifles during hunting season.
“You have to have an alternative shooting area,” Baxter said.
He has contacted the Roosevelt County Commission.
“If we put it off limits, that’s not going to change anything,” Commissioner Gary Macdonald said of the possibility that some people would continue to shoot at a closed area.
Installing gates and a higher dike are possibilities to remedy the situation that Macdonald said the commission will discuss in the future.

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GNDC Celebrates 20 Years Serving The Community

Celebrating 20 years since its inception, Great Northern Development Corporation touted its advancements and recent accomplishments during GNDC’s annual meeting at the Wolf Point Golf Course, Friday, July 18.
Executive director Martin DeWitt said GNDC was notified during late May that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields program awarded $600,000 for Brownfields assessments for environmental cleanups on behalf of the Eastern Montana Brownfields Coalition’s 15-county area.
GNDC is working with several governmental and private entities for environmental cleanups through the Brownfields Program, including the city of Wolf Point to clean up the former site of Gysler Furniture and Appliance in downtown Wolf Point, that was destroyed by fire in March.
“We’ve also been working a lot with Wolf Point Green,” DeWitt said.
Wolf Point Green purchased the former Kenco Refinery east of Wolf Point in 2011, after GNDC approached the owners about cleanup and development of the former refinery, now closed nearly 30 years. Wolf Point Green wants to develop the site for the proposed Fort Peck Clean Energy Campus that could include a new oil refinery, rail terminal, wind farm, and solar and geothermal energy production. There are also long-range plans that include greenhouses heated with energy produced within the site and a commercial fish farm.
A likely Brownfields program site, about $30 million would need to be funded to cleanup an estimated 315,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared the former Kenco refinery a Superfund cleanup site in 1997.
“Martin [DeWitt] and his group [GNDC] reached out to us in 2011. He suggested we take a look at the refinery,” Ken Elliott, a partner in Wolf Point Green, told the annual meeting.
“I met with the EPA a couple of weeks ago in Denver,” Elliott said.
He said he told EPA officials what his plans are for the 110-acre site.
“We’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,300 jobs that will be created with this,” Elliott said.
He said a million barrels of oil a day reflects about 50 percent of what is in the ground.
“Everybody in this part of the state knows what it’s like in North Dakota. It’s a disaster,” Elliott said.
He said eastern Montana could get ahead of it with new infrastructure, housing and schools.
“We work all over the country. The county commissioners here have been great,” Elliott said.
He added that Fort Peck Tribes officials have been good to work with.
In other business, DeWitt told the annual meeting that he was in Cul-
bertson in April when Gov. Steve Bullock announced that he would propose a $45 million grant funding bill to the 2015 Legislature to finance infrastructure improvements and expansions for Bakken Oilfield development impacted local and tribal governments, and water and sewer districts.
“One of the plus things that came out of that announcement was reducing the revolving fund,” DeWitt said.
Bullock proposed reducing the state Revolving Fund interest rate from 3 percent to 1.25 percent.
A man from Bainville said, “They could probably use all of that $45 million in Bainville.”
In other business, the board approved the $1.114 million GNDC budget for the next fiscal year.
Officers were reelected for another term. They are: president, Connie Eissinger; first vice president, Richard Kerstein; second vice president, Duane Kurokawa; and secretary/treasurer, Frank French.
The United States Economic Development Administration and the state of Montana have certified GNDC as a nonprofit regional development corporation that serves a six-county economic development district, consisting of Roosevelt, McCone, Valley, Daniels, Sheridan and Garfield counties. The Fort Peck Tribes is also a member.
GNDC was incorporated in October 1995 and has remained in continuous operation. Garfield County was included in GNDC later than the other five counties.

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Fire Restrictions In Place

The Roosevelt County Commissioners issued Stage 1 Fire Restrictions Thursday, July 24, which will remain in effect until further notice.
The following are prohibited until the restrictions are lifted: building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire except within a recreation area; smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or in a barren or cleared area at least three feet in diameter.
All land within the city limits is exempted from the restrictions.
Other exceptions include: persons with a permit authorizing an otherwise prohibited act; those using liquid petroleum or LPG fuel devices that can be turned on and off; where otherwise prohibited activities are posted as allowed; and wildlife or law enforcement officers, firefighters or rescue workers in the performance of an official duty.
Other restriction or exemptions could be posted.
The county commissioners will review the restrictions weekly.

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Fire Destroys Shop, Vehicles

A structure fire at the Jim Marmon residence on Smith Road west of Wolf Point early Saturday, July 26, destroyed a workshop, machinery shed, four vehicles, a combine and numerousantiques. The house was not burned.
The Wolf Point Volunteer Fire Department reported that the fire was not suspicious. It was reported at 2 a.m.

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