By Brandon Walker EBS STAFF
UPDATED SEPT. 5 AT 8:30 A.M.
BOZEMAN – A wildfire started near Bozeman in the Bridger Mountains on Friday afternoon. The Bridger Foothills Fire was first reported at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 4 approximately two-and-a-half miles from the Bridger Foothills trail near the “M.”
As of 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 5, the fire is 0 percent contained and flames had engulfed roughly 400 acres as the fire continues actively burning in timber. The cause of the fire remains unknown, according to authorities.
“This morning there is some smoke in the air, but it’s not as active yet,” said Mariah Leuschen-Lonergan, public information officer for the Bridger Foothills Fire. “It’s on both the east and the west side and the majority of resources are anchored in and doing structure protection and digging line on the eastern side.”
More than 100 personnel are on site with at least 10 aircraft combatting the fire, aided by smokejumpers and firefighters on the ground. Air crews are dropping both water and fire retardant to slow the spread. On Sept. 4, first responders cleared the area and ensured that no recreationists remained on the scene.
“The Midnight Sun Hotshots are on the line and one additional type two handcrew is on the line and then multiple crews are supposed to be arriving this morning as well,” Leuschen-Lonergan said.
In addition to four helicopters, four single-engine airtankers and two larger airtankers, at least one additional helicopter is en route to assist with the Bridger Foothills Fire.
The following trail closures are in effect due to the blaze: Middle Cottonwood, Bridger Ridge, Bridger Foothills, Sypes Canyon, “M” trail, Bridger Bowl to the Ridge, Pine Creek and Drinking Horse.
“All trails from Middle Cottonwood, all the way up to Saddle Peak and then tying in over the ridge to Bridger Bowl’s southern boundary and running south all the way down to the ‘M.’ All of those trails are closed,” Leuschen-Lonergan said.
Highway 86 is currently closed to the public and open for only resident travel from the Story Mill and Bridger Canyon Road intersection, continuing along Bridger Canyon Road to the Kelly Canyon Road intersection.
“We’re also asking people not travel that paved pathway along the Bridger Canyon Road. That is in the closure area and we really have quite a bit of activity going on that we need first responders have less congestion,” Leuschen-Lonergan said, noting that from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Sept. 5 a red flag warning is in effect. The U.S. Forest Service expects 10-15 mph winds throughout the day, gusting to as high as 25 mph at times.
On the evening of Sept. 4, the fire sat at roughly 80 acres, but expanded by more than four times in size overnight.
Bob Culbreath, assistant fire management officer for the Custer Gallatin National Forest, is currently serving as incident commander for the Bridger Foothills Fire.
This is a developing story. EBS will provide updates as information becomes available.