High winds over weekend lead to several small grass fires

A fire burned more than 100 acres in the Bear Trap Canyon Wilderness Area Saturday afternoon. Crews have contained the fire which was apparently started by an unattended campfire. Photo from U.S. Forest Service

Firefighters around Madison County were busy over the weekend as high winds pushed several small control burns on private land out of control prompting officials to shut down open burning throughout the county.

The lone fire on public land ended up being the largest, as an unattended campfire burned more than 100 acres in the Bear Trap Canyon Wilderness Area along the Madison River, prompting an evacuation of campers and other recreationists while firefighters worked the blaze.

All an all it made for a busy weekend for fire crews all over Madison County, said Chris Mumme, Madison County Emergency Services director.

All of the fires started on Saturday, when high winds kicked up and caused several control burns to jump out of control, Mumme said.

The first fire was reported near Harrison Lake at about 9:16 Saturday morning. Next was a fire between Twin Bridges and Sheridan in the Ruby Valley. This was followed by a fire in the south Boulder area, which was followed by a suspicious fire at the county dumpsite near Cardwell.

The fire in the Bear Trap came at the end of the day, Mumme said. Fire fighters from Harrison, Madison Valley, Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service all responded.

As of Monday the fire was 60 percent contained and crews were working on putting out hot spots, according to a release from the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest.

Even when burning opens again in the county, people need to use common sense and not burn when the wind is blowing, Mumme. All of the fires over the weekend were driven by wind.

“Make sure you have the makings of a controllable fire before you light it,” he said. “Have a plan to put it out if it looks like it’s going to get away from you and the tools to do it.”

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