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Geology students diverted from Mont. wildfires


A 6,400-acre wildfire sends billows of smoke into the air in rural Montana. IU students and faculty were unable to carry out fieldwork in nearby Cardwell, Mont., due to the damage. Kevin Ellett Buy Photos

A 6,400-acre wildfire in the nearby Tobacco Root Mountains began June 24. So instead, the students found themselves in Butte, Mont..

Forced to find housing for nearly 100 people with little advance notice, Executive Director of the Geologic Field Station Mark Leonard arranged for the students to stay in dormitories at Montana Tech in Butte.

But the “Pony fire” did not prevent the students from learning about geology. The students remained at the dormitory throughout the weekend and conducted a modified version of their fieldwork.

On July 1, Leonard met with fire authorities, who deemed it safe enough for the students to stay at the field camp the next morning.

“Although the road and all of the land south of us was still blocked off for civilian traffic, most of our field exercise areas were still tens of miles away from the fire,” Leonard said.

A second geology class of eight students in Introductory Field Experience in Environmental Science also continued. They arrived July 2.

“It was a very calm, clear day today, and the firefighters made a lot of headway,” read Leonard’s most recent update from July 3 on the IUFGS website, where he posted daily updates about the trip.

Leonard said the students from both classes are now at the IU Geologic Field Station, continuing their classes. The fire was contained on July 8.

— Chloe Kent

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