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Gazette Staff

Crews and slurry airplanes Monday gained the upper hand on lightning-caused fires burning on U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands in south Phillips County.

Two of three fires burning in the area were declared contained Monday at 6 p.m., according to Craig Flentie, a BLM information officer with the Lewistown-area dispatch center.

News was also good from firefighters battling the 60-acre Whiskers Fire, burning about 15 miles south of Big Timber. The fire was 80 percent contained by sundown Monday.

“They got a good handle on it today,” said Julie Shea, fire ecologist for the Gallatin National Forest.

None of the fires threaten any buildings or private property.

The largest fire in the state, the Castle fire, burned 2,000 acres Sunday in the rugged Missouri Breaks area north of Fort Peck Lake. The fire was 70 percent contained Monday night and was still estimated at 2,000 acres, all of which is BLM-owned land.

“Our hand crews and engines did a great job today and built a significant amount of fire line that held well,” Incident Commander Brad Sauer said.

Because of the remote, rugged terrain, the fire has moderate growth potential, BLM officials said. Containment is expected Wednesday evening. About 150 firefighters remain at the blaze.

The 50-acre Monument Peak fire, three miles north of Landusky, was declared contained Monday night. The 350-acre Killwoman fire, located six miles east of the Castle fire, was also contained Monday night. Throughout the day Monday, two heavy bombers and three single-engine transport planes were dispatched from a loading station in Jordan to drop retardant on the blazes.

Crews will continue to patrol the fires, but many of the firefighters have been sent to battle fires near Yellowstone National Park, BLM officials said.

Flentie also said there were a series of smaller fires of less than an acre through the same area and south of the river on Friday. Landowners and federal firefighters contained the fires, he said.

One tanker drop and quick work by smokejumpers smothered a one-acre fire spotted south of Big Sky late Monday afternoon, Shea said. The fire was spotted in a remote patch of timber about 12 miles south of Big Sky. The fire was declared contained at 7:30 p.m.