HELENA — With AA conference play kicking off with a trip to Billings in less than 24 hours, Senators coach Jon Burnett — along with the rest of the greater Helena area — received some startling news.
A 1,500-acre fire ignited amid high winds June 13 near Sheep Mountain west of Clancy. Officials said Tuesday the cause was determined to be power lines.
"I was actually down here at the (American Legion Class A) Reps game," said Burnett. "They were playing and my wife called me on the phone and just said, 'Hey, there's a fire up here.' And so that was pretty crazy, I'm like, 'Well, how close?' And she didn't have any details. So I started driving up home to get home and she calls me again. She says, 'Hey, there's firemen knocking at her door.'"
The Helena (1-3, 10-6) skipper stepped on the gas pedal a bit, arrived home, gathered his family and the dog and they were off.
About 20 homes, including Burnett's, were under mandatory evacuation in the area. The orders were lifted the following day.
"I have my family is in town, so we went and stayed with my parent," Burnett said.
To put it lightly, the drive to Billings wasn't awesome. But at least Burnett knew his family was safe.
"Yeah I mean, it was a pretty unnerving time, I guess you could call it," Burnett said. "A pretty new house and having that situation go on. So I didn't get a lot of sleep Saturday night and then we left for Billings early, but we were able to get back to our houses on Sunday and get my wife in before we got on the road (to Billings).
"Before I left we had a pretty good idea of that they had a handle on the fire and then our neighbors are great and I had talked to one of my neighbors and he told me he'd kind of keep a look out and help out if need be. So, I mean, once we got to playing baseball, that's where my focus was, but that four hour trip down to Billings and everything, it's a little uneasy, I guess I'll put it that way."
Two outbuildings were destroyed by the fire.