Preparatory measures being taken to prevent unbridled growth

By Sarah Gianelli EBS Senior Editor

BIG SKY – Three significant fires continue to burn and grow in southwest Montana. Yellowstone National Park announced today that the Bacon Rind fire south of Big Sky has reached 1,300 acres with the recent hot, dry conditions.

According to Big Sky Fire Department Chief William Farhat this morning, the Monument fire in Madison County is currently 4,200 acres in size; and just to the north, the Wigwam fire has grown to 2,000 acres. Detected on Aug. 11, the Wigwam fire is the newest of the blazes, and the BSFD has deployed a fire engine and crew of four to the area to assist in preparatory efforts to counteract its growth.

Farhat anticipates that the engine and crew will be back in Big Sky within a couple of days, and he stressed that while there are three major fires burning in the region, none of them are currently a threat to Big Sky.

The Bacon Rind fire, 20 miles south of Big Sky, began in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness and has moved into the west end of Yellowstone National Park. Although no suppression efforts have yet been taken on the Bacon Rind fire, as it approaches Highway 191, crews have been given permission to battle the blaze before it reaches the highway.

Farhat also said that while there is currently no direct, active firefighting on any of the three fires—due to the challenging nature of the terrain, or because it has not yet been deemed necessary—they’re all being closely monitored. Preparatory measures—building fire walls, clearing brush, trees and other potential fuels—are being taken to stop or slow the fires should they come out of the mountains and into the valleys.

“This time of year, our goal is to get out there and keep fires from growing,” Farhat said. “So, if the fire does advance in this direction, we are prepared.”

A Unified Command of Forest Service and Madison County has been established to manage both the Monument and Wigwam fires and, in addition to the two engines, two water tenders, and 20 firefighters already on the scene, a Type 2 Incident Command Team has been ordered to bring in national resources, along with multiple pieces of heavy equipment.

A portion of the Haypress Lakes subdivision south of Ennis was evacuated this morning due to its proximity to the Wigwam fire. There is currently an evacuation order for the Haypress Lakes Road and Boiler Springs from the Y in the road to the west, where it becomes Bureau of Land Management land.

An evacuation warning is in place for the Shining Mountains subdivision, also south of Ennis. Madison County Sheriff’s Office advises residents to be prepared to evacuate should it become mandatory.

The Johnny Ridge and Gravelly Range roads are closed through to Black Butte. Additional closures are anticipated.

The Ennis High School has been established as a Red Cross evacuation center.

Visit inciweb.nwcg.gov for updates on fire activity in Montana.