As wildfires approached to within feet of homes and property in the last 24 hours, volunteer firefighters in Lewis and Clark County stood their ground with hoses and water cannons to keep the fires from reaching residences.

Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton heaped praise on the volunteers who stood between the fire and people’s homes.

“I’m really impressed with the volunteer fire departments where the fire came at a bunch of houses in what we call the Black Sandy Loop, but there was a bunch of firemen who stood their ground took the water cannon and the hoses, and I know they probably saved probably 25 homes by just standing between the gates of the fire and the homes,” said Sheriff Dutton. “When it opens up (the area is currently evacuated) you can see for yourself the flames that came right up next to the homes, but they didn’t burn. They haven’t lost a single structure because of the immense fortitude and loyalty that these volunteers across the state of Montana do have and the citizens that they protect.”

Dutton said sheriff’s departments from all over the state to assist in evacuations and roadblocks due to the fires burning in the Helena area.

“Gallatin County has sent firefighters and deputies, as well as Ravalli County,” he said. “Ravalli County has sent four deputies to man the roadblocks and escorting security. It’s been a state and a national effort.”

Dutton said the North Hills Fire has burned over 4,600 acres, but a storm system that swept through the area sparked several more small fires.

“Yesterday we had a storm pass through with lightning that caused a fire that is now about 50 percent contained to the south of us and the DNRC is handling that,” he said. “We have two more fires to the east of us. One of them is the Owl Gulch area and the other one is called the Devil’s Tower Fire. Both of those are in extremely rugged terrain, but we have plenty of resources with the Type Two teams who are walking up there with saws and aircraft that are scooping water to drop on the fires.”

Dutton said Montana is fortunate to have such brave firefighters assigned to the fires in his county.