Fire West of Red Lodge Triggers Evacuations

By Beacon Staff

RED LODGE – Risk from a wildfire in the Custer National Forest about 12 miles west of Red Lodge has led to evacuation of some homes and a Girl Scout camp.

An employee at the Carbon County Sheriff’s Department says she has no reports that any structures have burned. The employee, declining to give her name, says she doesn’t know how many homes were vacated.

The Forest Service estimated the fire had burned 1,000 acres by Saturday night. Earlier, a forest official said the fire was spreading fast.

“It is burning very actively. I would expect the acreage to at least triple by tomorrow morning,” said Jeff Gildehaus, a Custer National Forest spokesman.

Cause of the blaze, called the Cascade fire, is unknown. The fire, reported at about 2:15 p.m., burned heavy timber on steep terrain. Limited access to roads and water is a concern to firefighters, Gildehaus said.

He said the fire spread quickly because of high temperatures, thunderstorm activity in the area and heavy fuels.

Gildehaus said he didn’t know the exact number of houses that have been evacuated. Three hikers were rescued by helicopter, he said.

Initial work to control the fire included crews on the ground and a helicopter dropping water. A top-level fire management team was being sent, along with air tankers.

At least 100 firefighters were working the wildfire, according to Larry Elder, mitigation education specialist for the Billings area.

Officials plan a public meeting at 9 a.m. Sunday to release more information on the fire. The meeting will be held at the Red Lodge Civic Center.

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