Fire Near Billings Prompts Temporary Evacuations

By Beacon Staff

BILLINGS – Authorities issued a voluntary evacuation order Wednesday morning for more than 100 homes in a subdivision outside Billings that was threatened by a grass-fueled wildfire.

Crews from the Billings Fire Department quickly brought the blaze — in the Rehberg Ranch Estates subdivision west of Billings Logan International Airport — under control, and the evacuation order was lifted at about 1:15 p.m.

The estimated size of the fire was later reduced to 43 acres.

The parents of Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., have a home in the subdivision and were among those who evacuated, said Rehberg spokesman Tom Schultz. The congressman does not own a house in Rehberg Ranch Estates but said Wednesday he was keeping a close eye on the fire.

Meanwhile, a second fire flared up about 10 miles west of the subdivision.

Yellowstone County Emergency Services said the second fire was burning on at least 100 acres, and air support had been requested. There was one unoccupied home in the area, but it was unclear whether it was threatened.

Elsewhere, fire officials have determined lightning caused a 518-acre wildfire west of Whitehall. The Cactus fire was expected to be completely contained sometime Wednesday.

The blaze started Saturday and was burning 10 miles west of Whitehall near the small community of Pipestone. Most people living in the Upper Rader Creek and Pipestone areas chose to evacuate over the weekend.

Also Wednesday, fire officials said a fire near Condon was burning on 104 acres.

Brad Gillespie, a fire behavior analyst with the Flathead National Forest, said heavy rain Tuesday night and cooler temperatures Wednesday were going a long way toward helping crews get a handle on the blaze. However, officials were not yet calling it controlled.

Crews were working Wednesday to complete a line around the fire and mop up the interior, he said.

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