(UPDATE, 7:30 p.m.) As of Sunday evening, the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest estimated the Yogo Fire at more than 3,000 acres in size — a significant expansion in just one day — fueled by high winds, dry fuels and steep slopes.
Visitors in the Yogo Creek drainage have been evacuated, according to a news release from Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, and an area closure is imminent.
The fire — first reported in the Little Belt Mountains on Saturday — expanded significantly in just 24 hours. By Sunday night, it was burning between Warm Springs Basin and Yogo Creek, after strong southwest winds pushed it slightly eastward, where the Yogo Creek drainage meets Skunk Gulch.
Firefighters made progress on the north and west flanks of the fire on Sunday, the release says, although air attack efforts on the east side remained challenging due to limited resources, high winds and concerns about visibility. Firefighters used helicopters and air tankers to battle the flames.
"Our primary objective is to protect the public while not compromising safety to our firefighters and pilots,” said Matt Plagenz, the incident commander, in the release. “We are asking for the public to follow evacuation orders and respect area closures.”
Although the fire is burning just east of Neihart, residents of Stanford, Hobson and White Sulphur Springs have encountered smokey conditions. The smoke plume is visible from Great Falls.
The cause of the fire is still being investigated. We will update you when we learn more.
(1ST REPORT, 12:33 p.m.) The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest now estimates the Yogo Fire at nearly 750 acres.
The fire, which started Saturday in the Little Belt Mountains for unknown reasons, has created extreme conditions between Yogo Peak and Prospect Ridge for firefighters. Southwest winds of 30 miles per hour and extremely dry conditions have prompted fire managers to order more resources in addition to the two type-one helicopters already assigned to the fire.
A Red Flag Warning is in effect. Residents are asked to avoid the area.
The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest is working with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, as well as Judith Basin County, to issue pre-evacuation orders, mostly to private landowners.
The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest released a list and map of anticipated closures on the incident management webpage Inciweb. Anticipated closures include:
- County Road 101 Dry Wolf Road at the intersection of County Road 102 Divide Road
- County Road 102 Divide to County Road 119 Running Wolf to County Road 104 Sage Creek
- Forest Boundary at Sage Creek 104 and south beyond County Road 107 to the Middle Fork Judith River Trailhead
- FS 825 Middle Fork Road from Yogo Crossing to the Middle Fork Ranches (open only to private landowners of the ranches)
- FS 251 from Elk Saddle to FS 8008 Kings Hill and FS 8906 Grendah Mtn
- FS 8906 Grendah Mtn to the western side of the Middle Fork Ranches along King Creek
- FS 251 at FS 8906 to FS 251 Tepee Butte
- FS 251 Tepee Butte and FS 3300 to FS 414 and 416 near Big Baldy
- FS 416 to FS 120 Dry Wolf Road near FS 120 and FS 325
- FS 120 Dry Wolf Road near FS 325 to the intersection of County Road 102 and 101
Flying drones over the fire could cause air operations to be suspended. Officials ask that you keep your drones out of their airspace.
We will update you when we learn more.