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Due to decreased fire activity and the establishment of fire lines, an evacuation warning was lifted early Saturday night for residents living near a mixed-fuel wildfire that drew multiple agencies to a ridge roughly two miles northwest of Livingston. 

The fire was first reported at about 2:20 p.m. on Saturday and grew to an estimated 200 acres in size as it burned along a ridge between the Fleshman Creek drainage and the O'Rea Creek drainage. 

Speaking at about 8 p.m., Greg Coleman, director of the Park County office of emergency management, said that the fire's incident commander, Park County Rural Fire District No. 1 Chief Dann Babcox, was calling the fire controlled but was not calling it contained. "There's still active fire around the perimeter, but they have a perimeter line around it," Coleman said. 

Air support was sent home for the night and crews were scheduled to continue monitoring the fire overnight. "They got a good jump on it and I have good hopes for tomorrow," Coleman said. 

At one point the fire was reported to be burning on both sides of the ridge.

"It's running the ridge. I don't have an estimate on the size of the fire. It looks pretty significant," Coleman said, speaking at about 5 p.m. "It's not just your normal sub-acre fire." 

By 6 p.m. the fire was estimated to be 200 acres in size and temporary road had been put in place for O'Rea Creek Road and Fleshman Creek Road in order to "keep non-residents out of the area," according to a posting to the Park County Sherriff's Office Facebook page. 

By about 7 p.m. road blocks were removed and the evacuation warning was lifted.

Earlier in the afternoon the fire had showed movement to the north and northwest, but had yet to progress into nearby forest, according to Coleman. 

Reports of the fire first came into dispatch after a storm brought lightning through the area Saturday afternoon. The cause of the fire is unconfirmed, Coleman said. The volume and variety of reports initially led to the belief that there were possibly three fires burning in the area, but it was later determined that people were "probably seeing smoke from the same fire and reporting it from different areas," Coleman said. 

Initial reports suggested the fire was making a run east, prompting the usage of a mass-notification system to issue an evacuation order at 3:18 p.m. for the 200 block of O'Rea Creek Road and beyond. "They didn't know the extent of the fire. With an abundance of caution we got people out quick," Coleman said.

The evacuation order was later downgraded to a warning before the warning was also lifted. Though he was unsure if the evacuation downgrade was communicated sooner onsite, Coleman said another mass notification message for the downgrade of the evacuation was sent out an hour after the original evacuation order. 

In addition to Park County Rural Fire District No. 1, Livingston Fire and Rescue and other Park County Rural Fire Districts responded to calls for mutual aid. Also assisting in the firefighting effort were the U.S. Forest Service and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. Air tankers with retardant, helicopters and smoke jumpers were all utilized to help control the fire. 


Night Reporter

General assignment reporter for The Billings Gazette.