MISSOULA, Mont. - Update from the Gallatin Media Center:
The Cottonwood Gulch Fire burning north of Manhattan in the Horseshoe Hills area is now estimated at 8500 acres in size. Fire crews are still on the fire and will remain on the fire all night. More fire resources have been ordered to replace them on Monday.
Fire crews are working throughout the entire fire area and everyone is encouraged to stay away from the fire. While it is interesting to come see what is happening, this is highly discouraged as it adds traffic to these small roads and can impede the fire personnel trying to do their jobs. It is not uncommon for curiosity to get someone into a place they shouldn't be and they now become part of the emergency. Please help the firefighters by staying out of the area.
The cause of the Cottonwood Gulch has been determined to be human caused and it is currently under investigation.
As a precaution the fire department is restricting access to the Gallatin River Ranch subdivision, the Menard area and Dry Creek Road. Police have set up closures in those areas and ask that the public avoid those areas if they don't have to be there. Fire departments from across the Gallatin County are currently on scene at the fire. At this point, firefighters say the flames are uncontrolled and heading southeast.
Three state helicopters were sent from Helena Saturday afternoon to help ground crews fight a 3,000 acre wildfire burning in Gallatin County, north of Logan.
Shifting winds in the area complicated containment efforts. Evacuation notices were issued in the Gallatin River Ranch area, according to the Gallatin County Sheriff's Department.
"If the wind wasn't here it wouldn't be this big.This is definitely a wind driven fire especially with these grassy fuels. They're all dried out and they're all cured so the wind just takes it and it can move very fast and this one did move very fast," said Kerry O'Connell, Gallatin County Fire Warden.
Horseshoe Road is currently closed.
Witnesses in the area said they first spotted the fire around 12 p.m. Smoke plumes from the fire were reportedly visible from I-90, west of Bozeman.
By 1:30 p.m., the fire had grown to over 3,000 acres, according to the Helena Interagency Dispatch Center.
A helicopter pilot flying overhead reported the fire to be over 6 miles long, and approximately 1 mile wide.
Multiple agencies are responding. At 1:30 p.m., it was unclear whether any structures were threatened.
Officials are asking people in the area who see the fire not to stop in order to allow fire crews room to operate.