Crews are working to contain a wildfire burning on 1,100 acres about seven miles northeast of Grass Range.

By sunset Tuesday, the Blakeslee fire was about 70 percent contained, said Jonathan Moor, a public information officer with the Bureau of Land Management in a press release. 

The fire was reported mid-morning Tuesday, and it quickly grew from 10 acres to more 200 in about 45 minutes, he said. 

About 80 wildland firefighters responded to the fire with 18 engines, two helicopters, a reconnaissance airplane and a Billings-based air tanker.

Officials believe the blaze was was started by lightning and fanned by winds easily spreading through the parched heavy juniper, mixed pine, grass and sage brush of the Three Buttes area, Moor said. 

A cabin was initially threatened by the fire, but ground and air crews were able to repel the fire from approaching the structure, he said. 

The land is a combination of private, state and BLM-managed lands. The area is surrounded by at least five ranches.

Ranchers and ranch hands quickly mobilized to help in the firefighting effort. Using tilling disks, two road graders and a bulldozer they created a 20-foot fire break around the fire, Moor said. The space allowed firefighters and equipment to move rapidly though the area.

The Blakeslee fire is burning in a hot spot this fire season, Moor said. 

In the past week alone, crews have battled four fires in the area now being called the Fire Box, which is bordered to the west by Highways 19 and 191, and Highway 200 to the south, he said. The Upper Missouri River and Fort Peck Lake are the north border and the Musselshell River lies to the east. 


Chris Cioffi covers city news for The Billings Gazette in Montana.

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