Montana Public Radio

Montana Wildfire Update For September 07, 2020

Sep 7, 2020

The Bridger Foothills Fire northeast of Bozeman flared up to roughly 7,000 acres over the holiday weekend. Extreme fire behavior Saturday led to several evacuation orders and the Gallatin County Sheriff’s office says structures have been impacted and lost.

Custer Gallatin National Forest district ranger Corey Lewellen says the fire started Friday afternoon on the west side of the Bridger range.

"From the very beginning, this fire has been an all-hands-on-deck approach," he says.

Multiple agencies are attacking the wildfire from the ground and air.

Three firefighters caught in its path Saturday were forced to deploy fire shelters. They got out safely after it passed, and have since been treated and released from the hospital.

Bridger Canyon Road is closed from Story Mill to Sedan. Kelly Canyon, Jackson Creek, and all of Bridger Canyon were under evacuation orders. Moffitt Creek, Quinn Creek, O’Rea Creek, Willow Creek, Fleshman Creek, Stone Creek, Brackett Creek and Skunk Creek were all under evacuation warnings as of Monday afternoon. The Gallatin County Sheriff’s office allowed Bridger Canyon residents to temporarily return home Monday for about four hours in order to grab belongings.

A Canadian coldfront brought rain and snow at higher elevations Monday, dampening the blaze, which is listed as 0 percent contained. According to an update on Inciweb Monday, mild fire conditions allowed firefighters to construct more fireline. However, warmer temps are expected later this week, which could lead to increased fire activity.

"We’re a long way from being done with this incident," District Ranger Corey Lewellen says.

Firefighters made enough progress on the Bobcat Fire burning seven miles south of Roundup that all evacuated residents were given the greenlight to return home Monday.

The Bobcat Fire flared to 30,000 acres this weekend, pushed by erratic winds and hot temperatures. Highway 87 was temporarily closed and evacuation orders were given for some areas west of the highway.

Some subdivisions were threatened east of Highway 87 and an undisclosed number of structures have sustained damage, according to an update on Inciweb.

Monday's cool and rainy break in the weather offered firefighters a chance to contain the fire’s northwestern flank along Highway 87.

The 350 people assigned to the fire under a Type 2 Incident Management Team are focusing on protecting structures and securing containment lines.

Monday's rain allowed wildfire crews to start reigning in several other fires that burned actively over the hot and windy weekend.

Crews on the Sarpy Fire burning 52,000 acres about 20 miles east of Hardin were challenged by a lack of resources. But crews from multiple agencies led by a joint incident command team under Bureau of Indian Affair Crow Agency and Northern Cheyenne fire managers worked together to contain 70 percent of the fire by Monday night.

On the northeast side of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, state resources are moving off the Rice and Snider Fire after crews contained 95 percent of the fire this weekend. The 47,000 acre fire caused temporary evacuations in Ashland late last week and drew a response from 290 people on the ground and in the air.

The Huff Fire that forced evacuations in Jordan last week is expected to be contained Tuesday. Local ranchers lost 200 sheep to the fire, along with an unknown number of cows and 20 secondary buildings, according to Garfield County Disaster and Emergency Services. Some livestock remains at large and motorists in the area are advised to take caution.

Temperatures are expected to rise again this week, returning to hotter than normal by the weekend. As BIA regional fire management offers Bryce Rogers said Monday, "We’re not out of the woods yet."

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