Montana Forest Fire State's Largest of the Season
The Indian Trail fire, 50 miles southwest of Great Falls, Mont., grew by 1,000 acres to 3,400 acres Thursday (Sept. 10), making it the largest fire in the state so far this year.
Late Thursday, winds of change swept down a previously secure hillside — site of the Incident Command Unit – and prompted Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton to call for an evacuation order of all the 125 residences in the area, according to the Helena Independent Record.
The fire's unpredictable growth, coupled with the difficult terrain and the fact that only one main road runs through the area, prompted officials to put further restrictions on access. Dutton said Beartooth Road, which runs along the east side of the reservoir, was open to residents only and that access will be on a case-by-case basis for them.
That means the popular Holter Lake and Log Gulch campgrounds and boat launches also are shut down to the public, as is the Departure Point Campground.
The Holter Dam Campground remains open, but that accesses only the Missouri River below Holter Reservoir.
Access to the 32,000-acre Beartooth Wildlife Management Area also was shut down, including to bowhunters with special big game permits. A few hunters on the property were asked to leave.
The fire, which was discovered about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, apparently started at the Indian Trail Marina, near a group of trailers. Four trailers were incinerated in the blaze, but another dozen nearby were unscathed, as were boats stacked in dry docks.
"When we got here three were fully involved and the fourth was part way," said Rocky Infanger, chief of the Craig volunteer fire department. "We focused on the structures – there were a lot of propane tanks nearby – but the fire started spotting across the road."
The cause of the fire has yet to be determined, but Dutton said they don't think it was intentionally set.
"The investigators said there's no evidence it was caused by a nearby power line," Dutton said. "It could be something electrical within the trailer, or it could be a myriad of things, like someone could have left a candle burning."