WEST YELLOWSTONE (AP)
High temperatures and erratic wind caused a wildfire near this resort town and national park gateway to double in size Thursday, to roughly 3,000 acres, a fire officials said. Evacuation orders remained in effect for 45 to 50 summer homes, a resort and campground. The Madison Arm Fire was detected at about 1 p.m. Wednesday and was burning near the Madison Arm of Hebgen Lake about a mile and a half north of West Yellowstone. Temperatures in the 90s, combined with erratic wind gusts and 5 percent humidity, caused it to spread Thursday afternoon. "It started burning very actively around 4 p. m. and the wind picked up and just fueled it and fanned it," said Marna Daley, a fire information officer. Better mapping accounted for some of the growth, but firefighters remained concerned about extreme fire activity, including the run to the north late in the afternoon. "It's pushing against the Madison River into the Horse Butte area, and there have been spot fires as far north as Rainbow Road," Daley said Thursday night. Authorities urged residents of 45 to 50 seasonal homes to evacuate Wednesday as a precaution. Evacuation orders remained in effect Thursday night at the Baker's Hole Summer Cabins, the Lake Shore Summer Homes, the Madison Arm Resort, the Baker's Hole Campground and a state game warden cabin. The Yellowstone Holiday subdivision, Yellowstone Village, Rainbow Point Campground and Duck Creek Campground were on alert for evacuation, fire officials said. State Highway 191 remained open late Thursday despite concerns that it would have to be shut down, said Marianne Baumberger, a Gallatin National Forest. Roughly 300 people were assigned to the fire Thursday, including U.S. Forest Service firefighters and the West Yellowstone and Northside rural fire departments. A highly trained "Type 2" fire team was expected to take control of the blaze today, Baumberger said. The cause of the fire remained under investigation. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality said smoke "reached very unhealthy levels" in West Yellowstone at about 11 a.m. Thursday. Conditions improved later in the day as winds increased. But the agency warned that air quality could deteriorate Thursday night "as an inversion traps the smoke and holds it close to the ground." Also Thursday, Forest Service officials warned that fire danger readings hit "extreme" and "very high" at many of the 17 reporting stations in southwest Montana. The driest conditions were in Horse Prairie, southwest of Dillon; at Wise River; in Antelope Basin, south of Ennis; and in the Centennial Valley, southeast of Lima. In Granite County, and other parts of Madison and Beaverhead counties, fire danger was either "high" or "very high." Only in parts of southern Jefferson County was fire danger in the "moderate" range.