Conditions ripe for fire quickly spread a grass fire that started between Billings and Roundup on Thursday afternoon and damaged a mobile home, but thanks to a quick and heavy response from area fire departments, it was out almost as quickly.
The Mile Marker 9 fire — named so because that’s where it started along Highway 87 North, near the intersection with Michael Lane — started at about 2:30 p.m. and scorched an estimated 25 acres of agricultural land before fire crews were able to get it under control.
“It was growing pretty fast when we got here,” said John Hutzenbiler, assistant chief of the Shepherd Volunteer Fire Department. “Today’s seen critical fire conditions.”
Those conditions included winds from 15 to 25 mph, temperatures in the 90s and a relative humidity of around 30 percent, according to the National Weather Service in Billings.
Fire departments from Shepherd, Worden, Billings, Blue Creek and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation all headed out to the fire on a mutual aid call, bringing with them firefighters and a mixture of brush trucks, engines and water tenders.
Upon arriving, crews immediately began working to keep the fire from a number of homes and other buildings near the fire. It did damage, but not destroy, the front side of a mobile home
“We didn’t lose any structures,” Hutzenbiler said. “Structure protection was our main focus when we first arrived.”
A damage estimate wasn’t available as of 4 p.m.
Hutzenbiler said at the same time that the fire’s cause wasn’t yet known but that it first started running to the north near Highway 87 before strong winds whipped it to the east, just to the north of a half-dozen buildings.
“The fire is stopped and we’re in the mop up stages right now,” he said. “We’re working on hot
spots. There are some major hot spots.”
Crews expected to remain at the burn area into Thursday evening to continue putting out
hot spots and preventing flare-ups.
In addition to the fire departments, the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office, Montana Highway Patrol and power company crews responded.