Dry conditions aided forest fires near Wise River and Philipsburg that started Monday.
The fire near Philipsburg forced evacuations on Monday. The fire grew to 200 acres in a forested area about four miles southeast of the town.
In a press release from the U.S. Forest Service, public affairs officer Leona Roderick said the Rumsey Gulch fire was reported around 6:20 p.m. Monday and the cause is still under investigation.
The Pioneer fire near Wise River is mostly contained. Roderick said in a press release the fire was 75 percent contained and has burned 45 acres. The cause of this fire is also unknown.
“Now is the time for home and property owners to assess their property to determine if their home is defensible against wildfire,” Roderick said in a release. “Officials are asking people to be careful with fire, it is still early in the fire season.”
Madison County Department of Emergency Services Director Chris Mumme said the conditions within the county are extremely dry and Virginia City and Twin Bridges have shut down burning. The county remains open to burning, but Mumme says that may not be the case much longer.
“If the weather conditions don’t improve and we don’t get some moisture, we may have to shut down burning sooner than ever,” said Mumme. “There is no getting around it. It’s like it is in July and August right now.”
Mumme says severe precautions need to be taken when burning.
“If you don’t need to burn, don’t burn,” he said. “We need to be responsible for what we do. A few embers floating could ignite in seconds.”
Mumme advises those who do need to burn to keep firefighting gear close and have plenty of water on hand to put out fires. He also tells campers to keep fires within designated areas.
In addition to the Pioneer and Rumsey Gulch Fire, Mumme said there have been a number of fires around southwestern Montana including houses burning down in Whitehall and Butte on Monday and a fire contained on Priest Pass near Helena this past weekend.