Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer has declared an emergency across roughly half the state, as gusting winds were expected to breathe new life into wildfires.

The National Weather Service warned of lightning strikes that could spark new blazes, and fire crews braced for winds up to 40 mph into evening.

Government agencies reported that 2,000 firefighters and other personnel were trying to hold the gains made in recent days on more than a dozen large blazes.

Schweitzer's emergency proclamation for southeastern and south central Montana cited the continuing threat to towns and rural communities, including Ashland, Lame Deer and Colstrip.

The order paved the way for mobilization of the Montana National Guard and other state resources to help stamp out any new blazes in coming days.