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Updated Wednesday, June 16, 8:46 a.m.: Officials are now estimating that the Deep Creek fire east of Townsend has burned more than 2,000 acres and evacuations have been ordered for the Grassy Mountain Subdivision. 

A helicopter working on the fire crashed at about 5 p.m. Tuesday. All five people who were on the helicopter were able to exit the aircraft safely, according to InciWeb. 

A plume of smoke that appeared to be from the Deep Creek fire could be seen late Tuesday afternoon north of the Gallatin Valley as hot temperatures and high winds contributed to fire growth.

The fire burning east of Townsend — which was first reported on Sunday — may cause evacuations as flames jumped across U.S. Highway 12 on Tuesday, shutting down the Deep Creek Canyon area.

Officials estimated the fire's size at more than 2,000 acres Tuesday night.

More resources had been ordered and it was being upgraded from a Type 3 to a Type 1 team due to the size and complexity of the fire, said fire spokesperson Ashley Snellman.

Fire words, explained

During a call earlier in the afternoon, Snellman said that the fire was “making a run.” The fire had jumped across U.S. Highway 12, burning on both sides of the highway.

The Broadwater County Sheriff’s Office advised in a Facebook post at 3:10 p.m. that they closed the canyon and were working on evacuations.

People living in Thomason to the Grass Mountain Subdivision were advised to follow the Meagher County Sheriff Office’s evacuation instructions on a Facebook post from the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest shortly after 3 p.m.

“Please avoid the Deep Creek Canyon Area. Air attack is on-scene. This is an evolving situation and updates will be provided when more information is known,” the post said.

An update at 4:20 p.m. Tuesday on the fire information service InciWeb listed the fire at around 180 acres and only north of Highway 12 at that time.

Hot, dry and windy conditions would be a challenge for firefighters and aerial resources, according to the update. Winds were projected to reach up to 30 mph. The area of the fire includes heavy timber, interspersed meadows and rocky areas.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation but personnel responding to the fire found a fallen tree that had downed a power line, according to InciWeb.

The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest had reported making progress in the steep and rocky terrain Monday. At that time, it had about 70 personnel assigned to the fire with helicopter support.

The Deep Creek fire is just one of a handful of fires burning in the state that have started in the last week.

The Robertson Draw fire near the Montana-Wyoming border south of Red Lodge also started June 13. By Tuesday afternoon, it had seen increased growth and was estimated at 2,000 acres, burning primarily sage, grass and timber, according to InciWeb. About 80 firefighters were working on the fire.

The Gold, Ruby and Grove Creek areas were under evacuations, and additional areas were under a warning to be ready to evacuate. A Facebook live public meeting on the Custer Gallatin National Forest’s page was planned for 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Most of Montana is in a red flag warning through at least Tuesday evening, due to hot temperature, dry conditions and strong winds.

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Liz Weber can be reached at or 582-2633.

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