Bridger Foothills Fire

Burnt trees from the Bridger Foothills fire cover the Bridger Mountain range, some dusted with snow, on Tuesday morning, Sept. 8, 2020. 

Officials have reopened Bridger Canyon Road and some other roads and trails as firefighters continue mopping up the Bridger Foothills fire.

The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office announced around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday that Bridger Canyon Road was now open to the public. The U.S. Forest Service announced not long after that several roads and trails in the Bridgers and Bangtails would reopen at 12 a.m. Wednesday. A chunk of the Bridgers will remain closed.

The new closure area runs west from Highway 86 and south from the Bracket Creek Road intersection. It continues through Ross Peak and includes the western side of the Bridgers, meaning popular trails like Middle Cottonwood, Bridger Foothills and Sypes Canyon remain closed.

The Forest Service is urging people to not run the ridge or loop the Bridger Foothills trail because several connecting trails are still closed.

Roads and trails outside of that area will reopen, including Fairy Lake Road and the roads in the Bangtail Mountains.

Alex Schwier, a spokesperson for the Bridger Foothills fire, said firefighters are connecting mop-up areas and stamping out hot spots. Resources were moved to the fire’s northern edge, where most uncontained sections remain.

Crews had contained 77% of the fire’s perimeter by Tuesday morning. The fire didn’t grow over the weekend.

Though temperatures were expected to gradually drop throughout the week, officials said low fuel moisture and shifting winds could increase fire activity on the fire’s western edge. Bozeman’s air quality Tuesday was moderate, despite incoming smoke from fires in California, Oregon and Washington.

The Forest Service recently responded to six abandoned campfires, officials wrote in a news release. “If people are having campfires, it’s important to put them out completely,” Schwier said.

Nate Card, a patrol captain for Forest Service law enforcement, said weakened trees in closure areas threaten safety, even when there are no active fires.

“We’re asking folks to stay out of those areas,” he said.

Two other fires started over the weekend.

Firefighters working on the Bridger Foothills fire helped local crews put out a structure fire that started on Rifle Road along Bozeman Pass Sunday morning. The fire “severely damaged” one residence and prompted law enforcement to issue pre-evacuation notices to 30 other homes, according to the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office.

The team working on the Bridger Foothills fire, local firefighters and local police all responded to the structure fire. It was put out within two hours, the sheriff’s office wrote.

A new wildfire started Saturday morning at a remote area in the southern Gravelly Mountains, southwest 

of Ennis. The Lobo Mesa fire burned through timber, spreading to between 50 and 60 acres by Tuesday afternoon.

Forest Service officials alerted hunters and others recreating nearby on Saturday. The fire’s cause was still unknown on Tuesday morning. Officials hadn’t issued mandatory evacuations in the area, though they were considering area closures, said Jim King, fire management officer for the Madison Ranger District.

King said 10 firefighters were working on the fire. Several helicopters were dropping water to slow the fire’s spread.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the fire was not contained. Because it’s remote, firefighters can only reach the fire by air or by hiking multiple miles, King said. “If something happens to them, it’s hard to get them out.”

The fire hasn’t threatened any structures, according to King. Agencies have had to prioritize sending resources to fires where structures are threatened. He said officials are waiting to see if the fire reaches certain landmarks before ordering more.