Strong winds on Sunday fanned the flames of a wildfire 8 miles southeast of Roundup, destroying at least one home and prompting evacuations of about 20 residents in the Johnny's Coal Road area, according to Musselshell County officials.
The Lazy R fire was reported Sunday night and had consumed about 600 acres with zero containment Monday afternoon, said Floyd Fisher, deputy coordinator for Musselshell County disaster and emergency services.
The previous estimate of the fire's size was revised after GPS mapping by one of the Department of Natural Resources helicopters working on the blaze.
One house and a hunting cabin were lost in the blaze, Fisher said, but the homeowner was able to escape without injury.
"He was there when his home caught on fire, and he was outside and unfortunately had to watch it," Fisher said.
About 20 residents were allowed to return to their homes Monday evening after evacuation orders for several roads in the area were lifted. Pre-evacuation warnings remained in effect for West Parrot Creek and East Parrot Creek roads.
A Red Cross shelter has been set up for displaced residents at the Roundup Community Center.
Burning in grass and timber, the fire grew quickly as wind gusts in excess of 50 miles per hour were recorded at Bull Mountain Sunday evening. Despite breezy conditions Monday, Fisher said it grew little during the day.
"The winds kind of lowered their speeds enough to where, with the two helicopters in there, they were able to kind of slow that thing down," he said, adding that bulldozers had established a line around the entire fire perimeter.
State and federal Bureau of Land Management firefighters on Monday joined local fire departments from Shepherd, Worden, Roundup, Bull Mountain, Dean Creek and Hawk Creek. About 75 people were involved in firefighting operations on Monday, Fisher said.
Wind speeds were expected to die down headed into Monday evening, and remain relatively calm Tuesday. By Tuesday night, however, a cold front is forecast to again bring stronger winds into the area.
"There's still a lot of concern there due to the wind, so that's going to be a big item," Fisher said. "If we get a good 30-, 40-mile-an-hour gust, that could take this thing off and running again."
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.