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Wildfire breaks out near Big Sky

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The Porcupine Wildfire began at approximately 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 5 south of Big Sky. OUTLAW PARTNERS PHOTO

Porcupine Wildfire estimated at approximately 400 acres

By Brandon Walker and Joseph T. O’Connor

BIG SKY – A wildfire began this afternoon, Nov. 5, at approximately 1:30 p.m. near the Porcupine Trailhead and about one mile south of the U.S. Highway 191 and Highway 64 intersection near Big Sky. By 5:30 p.m. the Porcupine Wildfire had engulfed an estimated 400 acres. 

“The majority of forward movement has decreased significantly,” said Custer-Gallatin National Forest Public Affairs Officer Marna Daley. “It’s gotten held up … in some of the rocky cliffs that are there, the rocky slopes, so that’s really helped suppression efforts.”

The Porcupine Wildfire started at approximately 1:30 p.m. on Thursday. By 5:50 p.m. it had ravaged 400 acres. OUTLAW PARTNERS PHOTO

The wildfire occurred in a portion of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks designated Gallatin Wildlife Management Area, which is closed to recreationists from Dec. 1 through May 14 and is a known wintering area for elk.

There are currently no mandatory evacuation notices or road or trail closures, however the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office has issued a pre-evacuation notice to Big Sky residents who live within two miles of the fire’s perimeter along the eastern bank of the Gallatin River—the same side of the river that the fire is burning. Structures are not threatened at this time.

The blaze began shortly after the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies were conducting a prescribed burn approximately one mile south in the Lemon Drop area between Porcupine and Twin Cabin Creeks, according to a Nov. 4 email from the Custer Gallatin National Forest Ranger District obtained by EBS.

“Because the prescribed burn and the wildfire occurred in the same general area it was originally thought that embers or a spot fire started the wildfire,” Daley wrote in a text to EBS. “However, given the mile or so distance between the two a fire investigation is underway.”

Daytime winds were sustained out of the south-southwest during the day today. At 2 p.m., according to the National Weather Service, winds were sustained at 13 mph with gusts of up to 33 mph. 

NWS had issued a red flag warning in the East Beaverhead area approximately 80 miles west of Big Sky for Thursday, calling for sustained winds of 20-30 mph with gusts to 40 mph.

Personnel from more than half a dozen agencies stage at across from Lone Peak High School along Highway 191 south of Big Sky on Thursday as they respond to the Porcupine Wildfire. OUTLAW PARTNERS PHOTO

“Strong winds and low humidity will combine during the afternoon creating a critical period for fire weather,” the warning stated.

Management of the fire is being carried out in a joint effort between the Big Sky Fire Department and the U.S. Forest Service, which will be monitoring the fire this evening, according to officials.

Three helicopters worked to suppress the fire by dropping water on the blaze this afternoon. Resources from the Big Sky, Bozeman, Yellowstone Club, Hyalite and other rural fire departments are all on scene as well as Custer-Gallatin National Forest Service officials, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Montana Highway Patrol and the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office.

“Thanks to the really fast response from our local fire departments, the Forest Service, and Montana DNRC, we’re making great progress on the fire. [We’re] looking to continue doing that throughout the evening, especially as temperatures cool down and humidities rise,” Daley said. 

Firefighters approach the northern flank of the Porcupine Wildfire on Thursday afternoon. OUTLAW PARTNERS PHOTO

“[The fire] is laying down really nice, but the investigation hasn’t started yet,” said BSFD Chief Greg Megaard, adding that the investigation will begin tomorrow.

Stay tuned to EBS for updates as information becomes available.

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