HELENA – The North Hills fire continued to spread Tuesday, growing around 400 acres in the past 24 hours.
More than 350 personnel are assigned to the fire.
In addition, firefighters responded to four new fires reported Tuesday. Some residents surrounding these fires were evacuated, but no structures were threatened.
The fires are:
- Owl Gulch Fire, near York: Reported at two acres, firefighters and an engine are on scene. There is moderate fire activity.
- Devil’s Tower Fire, near Owl Gulch, reported at five acres with active fire activity. There are two tankers being utilized to slow the spread of fire.
- Two fires in the Clancy area, firefighters are responding.
At the North Hills fire, ground crews were improving fire lines along the northwestern perimeter, conducting mop-up operations along the southern perimeter and were cooling hotspots near structures.
Tuesday was also the first day evacuated residents were able to return to their homes, although briefly.
Sheriff deputies, including officers from Gallatin and Lewis and Clark County, escorted residents to their property this morning so that they could retrieve important belongings.
Although the fire has burned within feet of some homes, no structures have been lost at this time.
Crews say the past four days are a testament to the coordination between agencies in the area.
“The relationships that we forge with all of our mutual aid partners and DNRC and the Forest Service and all that stuff. It just all shines through when this stuff happens,” said Bob Drake, Tri-Lake volunteer fire chief.
Fire officials report the fire is still a long way from being out.
Fire crews are concerned with gusty and erratic winds from thunderstorms over the week that could potentially create spot fires across the Missouri River.
Evacuations for the fire remain in place and the next public meeting will be 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Helena Valley Community Center, 3552 Tizer Road.
Carroll College has offered assistance to North Hills Fire evacuees.
The college is offering to provide temporary shelter, animal boarding, and/or parking for RV’s or other vehicles for those in need.
Carroll is able to provide open corral space to board horses as well.
Individuals who have been evacuated due to the fire who want to learn more about these services can contact Jennifer Bingham, Business Operations Manager for Finance & Administration at (406) 447-5419 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The cause of the North Hills Fire is still under investigation but believed to have been human-caused.
-John Riley and Evelyn Schultz reporting for MTN News