Highway 87 fire near Billings 90% contained, cause still under investigation

2012-08-22T15:51:00Z 2012-08-23T07:40:05Z Highway 87 fire near Billings 90% contained, cause still under investigationBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

It took fire crews a little more than 24 hours to wall off much of the 1,933-acre Highway 87 fire that blew up on Monday afternoon.

Burning a few miles southeast of Billings, it is now 90 percent contained, and officials planned to turn management of firefighting efforts over to local agencies on Wednesday evening.

"Overnight, firefighters patrolled the blaze, dousing hotspots and securing the lines," Paula Short, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation spokeswoman, said Wednesday. Progress was made despite gusty winds that moved through the fire area on Tuesday night.

Officials say the fire is human-caused and continue to investigate but have said little else about how it started. It was reported on Monday at about 3 p.m. on the Crow Reservation and quickly spread to private lands in Yellowstone County.

One home and a garage were destroyed by the flames.

While the burn area continued to kick out heavy smoke, Short said she did not know of "any real active areas" within the fire's perimeter.

Officials also expect more headway to be made on firefighting efforts on Wednesday.

"We’re expecting those containment numbers to go up and we'll be patrolling and mopping up hotspots," Short said.

About 100 firefighters from the Crow Agency Bureau of Indian Affairs, DNRC and Yellowstone County are fighting the fire with numerous engines, heavy equipment and air support.

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