Firefighters battled two wildfires west of Bozeman on Sunday night after dry weather and strong winds kicked flames 100 feet in the air and threatened houses. One fire burned in Madison County northwest of Pony, and another fire burned in Gallatin County near Clarkston, fire officials said.
Public information officer Steve Digiovanna said the Pony wildfire started around 2:30 p.m. about a mile northwest of town. He said the fire was spreading quickly along a mountain ridgeline.
Winds gusting 30 to 40 mph, high temperatures and low humidity allowed the blaze to spread quickly in heavy timber with flames shooting 100 feet high, Digiovanna said.
Firefighters were concerned the blaze could spread into residential areas of the Mammoth Basin, he said.
“We’re doing everything we can to keep residents aware of the fire,” Digiovanna said. “We want them to know the fire could move that way.”
About 80 to 100 responders were at the scene Sunday night, he said. They came from the Department of Natural Resources, Madison County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Forest Service, Harrison Fire Department and other nearby agencies.
Near Clarkston, Three Forks Assistant Fire Chief Wendell Ewan said the fire was reported at 3:47 p.m. Sunday. He said firefighters were just getting to the scene around 4 p.m.
Smoke from both fires could be seen filling the sky throughout the Gallatin Valley. Nothing was yet known about the size or cause of the fires.
A third wildfire has been burning near Whitehall since Saturday. Firefighters on Sunday called in additional resources to battle the blaze burning Douglas fir, juniper and grass about 10 miles north of Whitehall in the Bull Mountains.
Officials said about 100 firefighters were battling the Antelope Fire that started about 2:30 p.m. Saturday and has grown to 462 acres in conditions officials describe as dry for this time of year.
Firefighters on Sunday worked to build fire lines along the south flank of the fire but not to the north in the direction it's heading because it's too dangerous. Two helicopters and four fire engines are also helping.
Fire spokeswoman Leona Rodreick of the U.S. Forest Service said the cause of the fire remained under investigation. She said no structures were threatened.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.