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  • Appeals court upholds Jesus statue on Montana mountain

    Published On: Aug 31 2015 02:46:40 PM MDT
    HELENA, Mont. -

    A federal appeals court has ruled a 6-foot tall statue of Jesus that has spent the last 60 years overlooking a northwestern Montana ski hill may stay there.

    In Monday's ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejects arguments from a group of atheists and agnostics that placing the statue on U.S. Forest Service land violates the separation of church and state.

    The three-judge panel agreed with a federal judge from Montana, who found the statue's secular and irreverent uses - as a meeting place and for photo opportunities - far outweigh its few religious uses.

    The Knights of Columbus placed the statue on Big Mountain in 1955 as a memorial to World War II soldiers.

    The Freedom from Religion Foundation argued the statue was a Catholic shrine.

  • Yellowstone officials dispel evacuation rumors

    Published On: Aug 11 2014 03:04:05 PM MDT   Updated On: Aug 11 2014 06:03:19 PM MDT
    YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK -

    Yellowstone is not being evacuated and no, the supervolcano is not erupting.  That is the message from park officials about a rumor prompting calls from people and media all over the country.

    Yellowstone Park Spokesman Al Nash says the rumor came from a website called Civic Tribune. He says no one has heard of the one-page website until now.

    Nash says the web page looks professional, but you can't find out who the source is.  He says the park and surrounding businesses are getting many calls and emails.  

    According to Nash, "What they said on their website, that was also a Facebook post, was that Yellowstone was evacuating because an eruption of the supervolcano was imminent.  And they used a photograph of a volcanic eruption from the Phillipines in 1984 to illustrate their story."

    Another web-based Yellowstone rumor made the rounds last spring, when someone posted a clip of bison running into the park and they said the bison were running out of the park away from an earthquake.

  • West Fork Fish Creek fire quadruples in size

    Published On: Aug 29 2015 12:51:37 PM MDT   Updated On: Aug 30 2015 12:02:00 PM MDT
    MISSOULA COUNTY -

    West Fork Fish Creek fire, west of Missoula, quadrupled in size Saturday. 

    It has now burned close to 12,000 acres.

    Public information officers with the Forest Service have confirmed that five Forest Service structures burned in the Fish Creek fire.

    It's believed the buildings burned some time Saturday in the Clearwater Crossing Area at the end of Fish Creek Road.  No privately owned buildings have been destroyed.

    A community meeting is set for 4pm Sunday at Frenchtown fire station 8 in Alberton.

    Evacuation orders imposed Saturday remain in effect. As people move out, firefighters are moving in, setting up camp, for what will likely be a long drawn out fight.

    The camp is set up at a church camp near Tarkio. Tents were pitched Friday evening and logistics crews spent the day getting supplies ready.

    It will be home to 110 firefighters and camp organizers. Firefighters are paying close attention to wind and changing weather.

    "With a cold front passage out of the south west up to 40 miles an hour," said fire information officer Mariah Leuschen," that is a large concern."

    There are 40 to 60 firefighters on the Fish Creek fire, including a Hot Shot Crew.

    But fires are burning across the west. Firefighters and resources are stretched thin. Fire management said it has to be "conservative" on how it deploy resources.

    "We don't have the resources to go after the fire currently," said operations section chief Greg Archie," "we're out doing structure assessments, trying to make sure we're working with law enforcement to do the evacuations and road closures."

    Fire management said there is a lot of private, federal and state property at risk.

    Teams have asked for more firefighters and equipment. A helicopter that will drop water is on its way.

    The following update was provided by the U.S. Forest Service:

    ***

    Start date: August 14, 2015
    Location: Approximately 15 miles southwest of Tarkio, MT
    Cause: Lightning
    Total Personnel: Approximately 110 personnel
    Current Size: Approximately 2,921 acres
    Containment: 0%

    Closures: The Area Closure for this fire extends from Schley Mountain, to the east of Clearwater Crossing Trailhead, north to Quartz Creek and west to the Superior Ranger District border and the Idaho/Montana border. The closure includes the Schley Trailhead, the Clearwater Crossing Trailhead and Campground, and St. Patrick Peak Trail.

    Evacuations: Stage 3 evacuations are in place by the Mineral County Sheriff's office for all of Fish Creek Road from I-90 to the Mineral / Missoula county border line, Lower Fish Creek along I-90, Quartz, McFarland, Rivulet, and Cyr Bridge. For more information, please call Mineral County Sheriff's office: (406)258-3555. Preliminary evacuation notice is in effect along Petty Creek Road in Missoula County. Please contact Missoula County Sheriff’s office and Department of Emergency Services at (406)258-3632.

    Resources Threatened: Private homes and cabins in the Fish Creek drainage and at the Hole in the Wall Ranch. Lolo National Forest Developed Recreation sites including Clearwater Crossing Campground.

    Current Status: John Thompson’s Type 2 Incident Management Team assumed command of the West Fork Fish Creek Fire Friday evening, August 28th at 6:00 p.m. Ninemile Ranger District personnel, along with local firefighters continued to work with incoming resources throughout the evening. Firefighters were disengaged from direct suppression efforts around 4:00 p.m due to safety concerns during increased fire activity in the afternoon winds. Hose lays and sprinklers are in place to protect some structures as a precaution in the Clearwater Crossing area.

    Planned Actions: Reconnaissance will be occurring this morning to provide updated information on the fire perimeter and size. The Lewis and Clark Hot shots will be assessing the Quartz and McFarland areas for structure protection needs. A structure protection group will continue to assess and support the Fish Creek area. Firefighters will be ready to disengage at a moment’s notice during the anticipated afternoon weather.

    Weather: Extreme fire conditions are expected today as a cold frontal passage makes its way through the area sometime late afternoon or early evening. There is a slight chance of showers associated with the cold front. Today’s fire weather coupled with dry fuels will create very active fire behavior.

    The Lolo National Forest entered Stage II Fire Restrictions as of August 28, 2015.

  • Hard-sided campers only at St. Mary; road access extended

    Published On: Aug 31 2015 12:15:15 PM MDT
    Glacier National Park
    ST. MARY, Mont. -

    Going-to-the-Sun Road is staying open longer as bears seeking berries have prompted a hard-sided camper rule at St. Mary Campground in Glacier National Park.

    Two weeks were added to the road's schedule to account for a closure caused by a fire near St. Mary Lake earlier this summer. The road from Logan Pass to St. Mary will remain open through Oct. 4.

    Park officials are also saying the number of bears seeking berries near St. Mary Campground have heightened the possibility for negative interactions between the animals and humans.

    Camping in the area has been indefinitely restricted to RVs, motorhomes, trailers and other hard-sided campers.

    Park spokeswoman Katelyn Liming says rangers are trying to change the bears' behaviors by using negative reinforcement.

  • Brain-eating amoeba kills 14-year-old athlete

    Published On: Aug 31 2015 04:32:05 AM MDT   Updated On: Aug 31 2015 07:31:57 PM MDT
    Naegleria fowleri amoeba

    CDC/CNN

    (CNN) -

    The fatal brain-eating amoeba has struck once again, this time claiming the life of a 14-year-old star athlete.

    Michael John Riley Jr. had been just days away from starting his freshman year of high school. The Houston teen, who qualified for the Junior Olympics three times in track, was swimming with his cross-country team on August 13 at Sam Houston State Park.

    That's when Michael encountered the Naegleria fowleri amoeba. Within days, the teen's bad headache turned into a total loss of brain function. He died Sunday.

    Dr. Umair Shah said the Harris County, Texas, health department, which he heads, learned of Micheal's case a few days earlier on August 22. His agency soon became one of many -- including the hospital, the state and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- involved in the case, trying to pin down the source of his illness and get the word out to the public and health professionals.

    Naegleria fowleri are rare, Shah points out. But they can be found waters, especially those that are warm and still.

    "It's such a sad undertaking," the doctor said of Michael's story. "(The idea that) someone who had such a fantastic future would get such an amoeba and would be meningococcal meningitis and it's unfortunately not a good outcome."

    Here's what to know about the brain-eating parasite:

    What is it?

    Naegleria fowleri is a single-celled organism that can cause a brain infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

    It's typically found in warm fresh water such as lakes, rivers and hot springs.

    "These disease-causing organisms are naturally present in most lakes, ponds, and rivers but multiply rapidly in very warm and stagnant water," the Oklahoma State Department of Health said.

    How do you get it?

    People can get infected by swimming or diving into infected, warm bodies of water, the CDC said. The amoeba enters the nose and travels to the brain.

    In extremely rare cases, swimmers can get infected from pools that are not adequately chlorinated.

    But it's impossible to get infected by drinking water contaminated with the amoeba. And infections are not contagious.

    How often does it strike?

    Very rarely. In the past 53 years, 133 cases have been documented, according to the CDC.

    Most of those cases happened in Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Arizona and California.

    How often is it fatal?

    Very often. Of those 133 cases, only three people survived.

    Who else has gotten infected recently?

    Earlier this month, an Oklahoman died after swimming in Lake Murray in Ardmore, CNN affiliate KFOR said.

    Last summer, 9-year-old Hally Yust of Kansas died after swimming in several bodies of fresh water.

    "Our precious daughter, Hally, loved life and part of her great joy was spending time playing in the water," her family said in a statement.

    "Her life was taken by a rare amoeba organism that grows in many different fresh water settings. We want you to know this tragic event is very, very rare, and this is not something to become fearful about."

    In 2013, 12-year-old Zachary Reyna of Florida became infected after he went knee-boarding in fresh water near his home. He later died.

    That same summer, Kali Hardig of Arkansas went for a swim and was infected by the parasite.

    Despite the incredible odds against her, Kali survived.

    How can you prevent it?

    The extreme rarity and randomness of such infections can make it difficult to predict where they might occur.

    "It is unknown why certain persons become infected with (Naegleria fowleri) while millions of others exposed to warm recreational fresh waters do not, including those who were swimming with people who became infected," the CDC said.

    The Kansas health department advises swimmers to use nose plugs when swimming in fresh water.

    It also suggests not stirring up the sediment at the bottom of shallow freshwater areas and keeping your head above the water in hot springs.

    The Oklahoma health department also said people shouldn't swim in stagnant water, water that is cloudy and green, or water that has a foul odor.

    It also said signs that say "no swimming" should be taken seriously.

  • First Alert Weather: Air quality improves, briefly

    Published On: Aug 31 2015 09:07:16 AM MDT

    Air quality will not be as bad as it was at the end of last week, but smoke will make an appearance during the afternoon hours. High temperatures will be in 70s with lows in the 40s.

  • First Alert Weather: A pleasant Tuesday, more cool weather on the way

    Published On: Aug 31 2015 06:38:16 PM MDT

    September starts with weather that feels like fall.

  • First Alert Weather: Dry and cool start to the week

    Published On: Aug 30 2015 06:11:04 PM MDT

    The smoke isn't going away, but air quality should be better than last week.