At the time of publication, windspeeds in Jordan – a small town of 343 people in Garfield County – are 11 miles per hour, but only hours ago, the wind was whipping at more than fifty miles per hour, sending a grassfire across the prairie in what might be record speed. The small fire, started by a local farmer who claims he was unaware of the dangerous fire conditions, and his mistake seems likely to scorch the small community from one end to the other. The community has been evacuated, with local authorities pleading with residents to flee away from the flames and begging people not to come anywhere near the community.
At 4:45PM, the Garfield County DES reported, “The fire is approaching Business Lane. All residents and business owners that have not already evacuated need to do so now.” The followed a notice at 4:30PM that residents at the local hospital had been transported on bus to an undisclosed location out of town. It is presumed they went to a hospital in a neighboring county.
DES issued an urgent warning to evacuate the community at 3:52PM, stating, “”WE ARE EVACUATING TOWN NOW!!! All residents are to head West of town!!!!” Their first warning at 1:23PM said, “This fire is currently wind driven and we cannot repeat enough times DO NOT ATTEMPT TO BE AHEAD OF IT!”
The fire was first reported by the landowner at 11:49AM, but it was reported by the local sheriff to be under control. A lot changed between 11:49AM and 1:23PM, as the fire soon jumped Hell Creek Road and began to take off toward town.
Local landowners, ranchers, and farmers were urged to touch base with emergency services so they know who needs help being evacuated and who might need to be rescued from what some locals are calling the biggest and most terrifying prairie fire in memory, if not in recorded history. The hotter-than-normal Montana summer and fast wind has made the prairie into a tinderbox.
The National Weather Service has provided a satellite photo with infrared imaging to show the apocalyptic heat and scope of the fire (see below).
Currently there is a ‘red flag warning’ prohibiting open flames and unnecessary burning at the Fort Peck Reservation, in Daniels County, Roosevelt County, Sheridan County, Dawson County, McCone County, Wibaux County, Prairie County and Richland County.
With every available fire department and first responder within a hundred miles (or more) traveling to help in Jordan, it would be very difficult for Eastern Montana to endure a spate of grassfires in the absence of their local firemen.