Nearly 20 Million Acres Closed Because of Fires

Aug. 23, 2000

HELENA, Mont. — Montana Gov. Marc Racicot declared more of his state off-limits to recreation because of extreme fire hazard Wednesday.

The new proclamation means 19.6 million acres are closed — about 31,250 square miles, an area roughly the size of Maine.

Twenty-seven large fires were burning nearly 630,000 acres in the state. Montana encompasses 93 million acres.

The governor's new order banned hiking, camping, hunting and fishing on public land in western Montana and parts of central and southern Montana during the height of the summer tourist season.

Some exceptions were written in for specific recreation areas. And Glacier National Park, one of the state's top draws, is not affected, although it has special fire-prevention policies in effect for visitors, said spokeswoman Amy Vanderbilt.

More than 5.73 million acres have burned across the United States so far this year — an area about the size of New Hampshire — in what has been called the worst fire season in a half-century.

The National Interagency Fire Center said 79 large fires are now burning, almost all in the West, and covering more than 1.4 million acres.

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