Eight East Montana Coal Seam Fires Doused, More Still Burn

By Beacon Staff

BILLINGS – Montana officials say they have extinguished eight slow burning, underground coal seam fires — including one in Musselshell County that burned for a quarter-century.

Underground coal fires are ignited periodically in parts of eastern Montana by lightning, wildfires or the burning of trash.

Since last fall, eight of the fires were identified and doused by the state Department of Environmental Quality through a federal grant.

A ninth fire, near Miles City, is expected to be extinguished soon. Seven more coal seam fires were spotted during a flyover last week.

State officials say the fires put wildlife and ranchland at risk and emit noxious gases and carbon dioxide.

The Musselshell County fire had been smoldering since 1984. Last year, it sparked a wildfire that burned 1,700 acres.