MTN photo taken Tuesday night

HELENA – The Department of Natural Resources and Conservation reported that, as of Wednesday, the North Hills Access fire has burned 3.5 acres almost exactly.

Fire officials also have reported that Tuesday night’s fire is 40 to 50 percent contained as of Wednesday.

“We have (people handling) all the way around it. We were able to get engines in, we cut some roads in to get engine access, and you can see we are mopping up around it with water, so it’s quieting down for us,” Chris Spliethof, senior engine at DNRC

Spliethof also said they, as well as other fire stations, were able to catch the fire fast. “It was pretty dry and pretty warm but the terrain helped us out a lot and again having a lot of resources available and ready to go for the fourth of July we were able to jump on it pretty fast.”

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DNRC, the Forest Service, West Valley Volunteer Fire Department and Lewis and Clark County Fire Departments all responded to the fire.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation according to Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton “What we’ve seen when we look at the origin of the fire is it was right by behind where people shoot.”

Witnesses reported to law enforcement that they saw a man and a woman leave the North Hills access in a gun-metal gray Dodge extended cab, with a black push bumper on front three hours before the fire.

Dutton said, “I don’t know if they started the fire, but we would like to talk to them. They were right there, right where the fire started so we’d like to find out what of ammunition that they were shooting.”

“If you’re out shooting, if you’re out camping, I’d be really careful right now, it’s really dry. This fire is a prime example; it went from nothing to a couple of acres really fast.”

The DNRC will be in the area for the next couple of day to make sure there are no more flare ups.

The sheriff’s department spoke to the BLM about the possibility of closing the area to target shooting for at least a week to give law enforcement more time to investigate the fire