Wildfire near Bozeman grows in windy weather

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

BOZEMAN, Sept. 6 (AP) – A wildfire that has forced evacuations in southern Montana continued to spread Sunday in warm, dry and windy weather, fire officials said.

The Bridger Foothills Fire northeast of Bozeman started Friday, spreading to about 200 acres by the end of the day. On Saturday, it swelled to 10.9 square miles (28.2 square kilometers) because of the warm and windy conditions.

Officials said Sunday that the fire has destroyed some structures but the amount of damage was not clear yet. Authorities were still too busy reacting to the fire but planned to gather more information about the damage on Monday, Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said during a virtual community meeting.

All roads and trails in the Bridger and Bangtail mountains have been closed because of the fire, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.

Late Thursday, Gov. Steve Bullock issued an executive order declaring a state of fire emergency due to extremely hazardous wildland fire conditions throughout Montana. It allows the governor to spend money and mobilize additional state resources, including the Montana National Guard, to combat the fires.

Bullock said Saturday that the state has received a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to cover 75% of the state's costs for fighting the Bridger Foothills Fire, which he said is threatening more than 250 homes.

A cold front is expected to bring temporary relief on Monday, with freezing temperatures and a chance of rain and snow in some parts of the state Monday night.

Fire crews hoped to make gains on wildfires that forced evacuations and destroyed structures in central and southern Montana, as a cold front descended Monday with cooler temperatures, rain and high-elevation snow.

Evacuation orders remained in effect.

In central Montana, authorities lifted evacuation orders for a fire that started last week southeast of Roundup and charred more than 46 square miles (119 square kilometers). The BobCat Fire burned at least 10 structures and grew by several square miles Sunday.