Lolo, MT -

Gov. Steve Bullock has declared a state of emergency for 31 counties as wildfires spread in western Montana.

The Missoulian reports Bullock signed the executive order Monday. It allows the use of Montana National Guard resources from personnel to helicopters to help fight the fires.

Bullock says the rapidly spreading fires west of Lolo are a game changer that promises to stretch resources thin.

Wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph pushed two lightning-caused fires to a combined 5,000 acres, or nearly 8 square miles, by Tuesday morning.

They have burned several structures, including an unknown number of homes.

A shelter for evacuees has been set up at Christ the King Church in Missoula.

U.S. Highway 12 between Lolo and the Idaho line is closed except to residents and emergency personnel.