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Teamwork is critical to fight the Horse Gulch Fire

Horse Gulch Fire
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Posted at 5:18 PM, Jul 10, 2024

HELENA — The Horse Gulch fire east of Helena started just before 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. Crews are hard at work to get it stopped.

“It’s in heavy, dead, and down timber but then it moves into the open, grassy areas, and so that gives us a chance to get some momentum with mitigating the fire behavior, but it’s just all over the place with the weather conditions that we’re seeing,” says Kathy Bushnell, Helena District Ranger for the U.S. Forest Service.

The fire was estimated at about 600 acres as of 5 p.m. Wednesday. About 100 people were utilizing on-the-ground tactics and aerial efforts to stop the fire.

They have 5 crews, 5 engines, and other large equipment on order, 3 helicopters and 2 tankers with retardant, and one plane that is an air incident commander.

Their efforts are concentrated on the south side of the fire to protect homes, people, and stock. Forest Service crews were there creating contingency lines by cutting down smaller trees.

A type 3 fire team will assume command of the fire on Thursday morning. Bushnell and her team are doing what they can to give them a solid base.

The fire grew Wednesday in part due to the stronger winds that have picked up. Varying wind directions have made containing the fire difficult, says Bushnell.

“It makes it challenging just because, you know, you work on the line and then you need to move and start working somewhere else,” says Bushnell.

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As of Wednesday afternoon, the fire has burned an estimated 600 acres, according to Sheriff Dutton, and there are about 100 people assigned to fight the fire.

At about 3:30 p.m., residents in the Cave Gulch and Magpie Gulch areas were ordered to evacuate.

At this point, there are no reported injuries or damaged structures directly caused by the fire.

The exact cause of the fire has not yet been determined, but is believed to be "human-caused."

The American Red Cross is opening a temporary evacuation center at around 6pm at Our Redeemer's Lutheran Church (3580 North Benton Street) in Helena for people impacted by the fire burning. The facility will provide water, snacks, and updated information. All Red Cross services are free.

Bushnell says to be fire safe when recreating in these high temperatures and winds by keeping fires contained within a ring, putting out fires completely, and keeping towing chains off of the ground — and to please stay away from the area and do not fly drones anywhere nearby.

“When that happens, we have to look at stopping all of our aerial fire responses,” says Bushnell.

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