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Temperatures in the area have hovered around 111 degrees or higher for the past four days. Hill City, about 50 miles from Menlo, reached 115 on Tuesday and Wednesday — earning it the distinction of the nation’s hottest spot, according to the National Weather Service.
Much of the fortunes in the Menlo area are tied to corn, whose crop yields contribute not only to food but also ethanol-blended gasoline. But day after unyielding day of blazing sun and high heat have baked the top six inches of soil, and plant roots can’t break through to the moister soil below.
Growing corn in these hot and windy conditions, Baalman said, is impossible.
"It is getting to look ugly, the longer this keeps going on without a drink," Baalman said.
Wildfires pack intense heat, but soaring temperatures and whipping winds are piling the pressure on the men and women battling the blazes raging across the Rocky Mountains.
U.S. Forest Service firefighter Owen Johnson had to work overnight and avoided the piping-hot daytime temperatures in the region, which toppled records in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. On Tuesday, Colorado Springs reached 101 degrees, and Miles City in eastern Montana soared to 111 degrees, the highest ever recorded in that area.
A call came in after Johnson’s regular shift Monday in the Helena National Forest in Montana. A wildfire was racing through the Scratchgravel Hills, threatening at least 200 homes. But firefighters had to wait to attack the flames until midnight when the temperatures cooled and the wind died down.
On Tuesday morning, Johnson figured he had worked more than 24 hours, and probably wouldn’t quit until the sun went down.
His sweaty hands gripping a banana and a cup of coffee, he gave a tired shrug when asked to compare this fire to others in his 13-year career.
"Every fire’s different," he said. "They all pose their own risks and challenges."
EVERYTHING’S BETTER WITH BACON
Aaron Anderson and his 4-year-old son bypassed the timeworn trick of cooking an egg on the baking sidewalk Tuesday, opting instead to fry bacon on their driveway in Coweta, Okla.
Anderson’s thermometer read 105 degrees around 4:30 p.m., about the same time his son, Aaron Paul, said it felt like his feet were cooking.
Sky-high temperatures aren’t unusual in this part of the country, but it is warm enough this week that five records were set on Tuesday.
Anderson preheated the skillet for 10 minutes in the sun before throwing on the bacon.
It took an hour for the meat to fully cook. And, yes, they ate it.
"My only regret is it was turkey bacon instead of pork bacon, but that’s all we had," Anderson said.
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