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Millie Fire update – Sept. 24

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The Millie Fire, burning on the Gallatin National Forest 20 miles south of Bozeman, remains at 10,515 acres and 81 percent contained.

The fire continues to burn in the South Cottonwood drainage, in the upper third of the drainage on the back side of Blackmore Peak. The fire has grown slightly every few days; the uncontained part is mostly in South Cottonwood.

“This area has been of concern to us from the beginning of the fire and we knew that access and control would be very difficult,” said District Ranger Lisa Stoeffler in an email update. “We now have less active fire behavior and are able to put crews on the ground there to directly engage the fire.

A 10-person crew from the Stanislaus National Forest in California arrived yesterday and was helicoptered into a spike camp to begin work today. More than 60 people are still working on the ground, supported by helicopters and water drops.

“Even with this help, it is still very rugged country that will just require our patience and a little help from the weather,” Stoeffler said.

There are scattered hot spots throughout the rest of the fire that are mostly within the existing perimeter of the fire. The Gallatin National Forest is watching those with aircraft and tracking the heat with infrared instruments. Because of continued dry weather with temperatures in the 70-80 degree range, the fire, which is almost four weeks old now, isn’t likely to be completely out for some time, Stoeffler said.

The Forest will continue to commit people and equipment to the fire and call in necessary outside resources until a season ending change in the weather puts the fire out.

With favorable weather conditions yesterday, fire behavior was minimal with continued backing downslope into the South Cottonwood Creek Drainage, toward the containment line in the east fork. Firefighters were able to strengthen and extend containment lines.

Weather conditions will be slightly cooler today, with a slight increase in humidity with light winds from the east. Smoke will continue to linger in the lower elevations. Weather forecasters have indicated that a change to windier, higher humidity conditions will occur beginning tonight. This will increase the likelihood of isolated thunderstorms between 2 – 10 p.m. on Monday.

The South Cottonwood, Little Bear/Big Bear and Storm Castle drainages remain closed to the public. Hyalite Reservoir will also remain closed until helicopters no longer need that as a water source.

Fire restoration efforts are ongoing where the fire is cold. The plan for emergency stabilization across the hottest burned portions of the fire is complete and the Forest hopes to begin that work this fall.

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