Wigwam Fire Aug 14

Smoke billows from the Wigwam fire burning southwest of Ennis in the Gravelly Mountains. 

The two fires burning in the Gravelly Mountains southwest of Ennis showed significant growth on Wednesday, and both are now larger than 4,000 acres.

The Wigwam fire, in the Wigwam Creek drainage near the Shining Mountains subdivision, is now estimated at 4,190 acres. It's officially zero percent contained.

Marc Peebles, a fire spokesman, said the Wigwam fire grew to the east Wednesday afternoon, putting up a smoke column large enough to be visible throughout the Madison Valley. He said it crossed the Call Road. 

The Monument fire grew to an estimated 5,400 acres. It's listed on InciWeb as 5 percent contained. Peebles said it moved east and south but didn't affect a nearby road. 

Peebles said fire activity continued through the night with stands of timber still glowing in flames. 

More growth may come on Thursday. Warm temperatures and low humidities are expected, and Peebles said fire fuels may dry out and catch during the afternoon. 

"The weather is not exactly favorable for us," Peebles said. 

Peebles said helicopters are dropping water and planes are dropping retardant. Firefighters are assessing buildings for defensibility should the fire come near them. The Wigwam fire is near a subdivision and forced an evacuation of 20 homes and warnings for many more but no structures have burned.

Several roads leading to the forest are closed. Parts of Gravelly Range Road, Call Road, Johnny Gulch Road and Timber Creek Road are closed. Standard Creek and Cottonwood roads are open but areas north of them are closed to public entry. 

The Bureau of Land Management ordered fire restrictions on its Western Montana District on Wednesday. The order prohibits campfires outside of metal rings. Smoking outside a vehicle, building or developed area is also prohibited. Similar restrictions are in place for the entire Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.

Michael Wright can be reached at mwright@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2638. Follow him on Twitter @mj_wright1. 

Michael Wright covers the environment and wildlife issues for the Chronicle.