Bear Creek fire

A view from an airplane shows the Bear Creek fire, which is burning on Lemhi Pass. 

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Gusty winds and low humidity helped the fire on Lemhi Pass grow to more than 6 square miles on Wednesday. 

A late night infrared flight over the Bear Creek fire on Wednesday mapped its size at 3,987 acres, fire officials said in an update Thursday morning.

The lightning-caused fire along the Montana-Idaho border has kicked up smoke that can be seen from around the region, including in Bozeman. It was first discovered on Tuesday. 

On Wednesday, firefighters used burnouts and other work to clear fuels ahead of the fire. They were also able to stem movement on the fire's eastern flank and worked with ranchers to move livestock out of the area, according to Thursday's update.

More "critical" fire weather is expected Thursday. Officials expect high winds to push the blaze in some spots. They also expect to see short crown runs and some spotting. 

Crews will look for opportunities to use roads to stop the fire's growth and to use burnouts. 

There are 139 people at the fire along with eight helicopters and three fire engines. Scoopers and airtankers are available, fire officials said, and a Type 2 Incident Management Team took over Thursday morning.

A 37-mile stretch of Continental Divide Trail is closed from Lemhi Pass to Bannock Pass because of the blaze. Lemhi Pass Road is closed from Brenner Lake to the Idaho border.

Officials are encouraging the public to stay away from the area because of heavy fire traffic.

The Bureau of Land Management announced later Thursday that it was closing some of its lands near the fire. The closure applies to land that's south of Lemhi Pass Road, west of Highway 324 and east of the Continental Divide along the Montana state line.

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Michael Wright can be reached at or at 582-2638.