GREAT FALLS — The Pine Grove Fire near Hays has now burned an estimated 5,000 acres. The fire was discovered at about 11:35 a.m. on Monday.
Just after 8 p.m., the Fort Belknap Council said all residents of Zortman and the Zortman area need to be on notice for possible evacuation.
At 9:30 p.m., they requested that people voluntarily evacuate Zortman, and to pack only essentials.
At 11:30 p.m, they said that Hays Pine Grove and Star Hill are on a WARNING status for evacuation: "This is a time for preparation, precautionary movement of persons with special needs, pets etc."
The fire is being managed as a Type 3 Incident with 19 personnel on site; fire behavior is said to be "extreme."
Earlier on Monday, a spokeswoman for Fort Belknap said there were two fires - the Pine Grove Fire, and another one is in the agency; Fort Belknap officials said at about 7:25 p.m. that the agency-side fire has been contained, and crews were mopping up.
There have been no reports of any serious injuries, and there is no word yet on the suspected cause of the fire.
(1st REPORT, 4:03 p.m.) A large wildfire has triggered some evacuations in the Hays-Lodgepole area.
The Fort Belknap Facebook page said just before noon on Monday: "There is a large fire on the Carrywater hill area and all surrounding homes are currently being evacuated. We are advising all non emergency personnel to stay away from the Carrywater hill and White Cow areas at this time to allow emergency personnel to evacuate the residents safely. Further information will be provided regarding emergency shelters for the evacuees."
At 3:40 p.m., the agency said:
- Due to Agency Fire Emergency
- Evacuation Agency Residents and Office Buildings
- All Employees and Residents
- Evacuate All along River at Agency!
- Hays School
- John Capture Center
- Lodgepole Elementary Schools
- Chief Nosey
Ron Speakthunder says the fire has jumped the river twice.
A spokeswoman for Fort Belknap said the fire is currently at about 1,200 acres with zero containment. She said they are actually battling two fires right now - one in the Pine Grove area of Whitecow Canyon, and the other one is in the agency, so resources are being split.
The gusty winds are pushing the fire toward Lodgepole, so they are evacuating everyone in Lodgepole to the Lodgepole Elementary School.
Firefighting agencies involved so far include Fort Belknap, Hays, Lewistown, and MT DNRC.
There have been no reported injuries at this point. There is no word yet on the size of the fire, nor the suspected cause.
We will update you as we get more information.