High winds fueled a house fire near Divide Wednesday, fully engulfing the two-story structure before firefighters arrived.
A woman who called in the fire apparently made it out of the house and was taken from the scene by a “third party,” said Beaverhead County Sheriff Frank Kluesner.
“We don’t believe there were any people still inside,” he said.
The house is tucked in the hills about 2 miles west of Divide, just off of Montana Highway 43 near the Divide Bridge and 200 yards or so from the Big Hole River. Within 45 minutes, much of it was charred and collapsed, and the fire scorched a car parked to the side and two towering pine trees.
Al Lefor, who keeps an eye on a nearby cabin and adjacent property for a landowner, said a Butte woman owned the house but he’s not sure who has been living there.
He said he was worried at first about fire spreading north toward the cabin, but quickly determined that winds were blowing steadily toward the Big Hole.
“The blaze was huge,” he said. “The flames were as high as the trees.”
He said it was a nice home with two giant windows on the second floor overlooking the river.
A fire truck from Wise River Volunteer Fire Co. was first on the scene, he said, but firefighters from Butte-Silver Bow and Melrose also responded. The house is barely inside of Beaverhead County, but Butte-Silver Bow Sheriff Ed Lester was there along with Kluesner and a Montana Highway Patrol trooper.
“This is a great example of intra-agency cooperation,” Kluesner said.
Lefor said the high winds obviously fueled the fire, but it was fortunate that fields and trees were so green from a wet May.
It was so windy in the area Wednesday, Kluesner said he decided earlier in the day to turn down any requests for burn permits.