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A new wildfire sparked in the Crazy Mountains on Thursday. By Friday, it was burning through trees in steep, rocky terrain about 3 miles east of the Forest Service’s Porcupine Cabin.

The Sunlight fire started in rocky terrain on the upper-third section of a western slope in the Sunlight drainage, the Custer Gallatin National Forest announced around noon on Friday. It was first detected Thursday night, and it had grown to 1.5 to 2 acres by Friday afternoon.

The new fire is burning approximately 3 to 4 miles south of the American Fork fire, which was 76% contained by Friday, said Mariah Leuschen-Lonergan, a spokesperson for the national forest.

The American Fork fire had torched just under 22,000 acres in the northeast Crazy Mountains, about 24 miles southwest of Harlowton.

Helicopters spent Friday dropping buckets of water on the Sunlight fire while firefighters assessed access routes. Its cause is still under investigation, Leuschen-Lonergan said.

Officials predicted that weather near the fire would remain hot and dry through Friday, though thunderstorms were possible later in the day and into the weekend. Near the fire, there was a 30% to 40% chance of showers and a front was expected to bring cooler temperatures through the weekend.

Fire managers didn’t know whether thunderstorms in the forecast would materialize into rain, according to Leuschen-Lonergan. Air resources on Friday were focused bucket work to help douse the blaze.

Leuschen-Lonergan urged people to be cognizant of the new fire and pay attention to area closures when in the Sunlight drainage. The Shields River Loop — a popular spot for archery hunters — was still closed to the public on Friday due to the American Fork fire.

Crews at the Shields River Loop were removing hazard trees and doing excavation work. Many areas north and northeast of Sunlight Lake were also closed to the public.

People on Friday could still access the Sunlight drainage via the Porcupine Trailhead No. 258. They could also park at the lower Sunlight trailhead and hike the roadbed to trail No. 260, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

While the Sunlight drainage was accessible, Leuschen-Lonergan said hunters and others should be aware of the new fire and helicopters working in the area.

The Custer Gallatin National Forest in late August rescinded fire restrictions on all ranger districts apart from the Sioux Ranger District in far southeastern Montana and South Dakota. Still, officials are urging the public to be diligent and thorough when putting out warming fires.

“Conditions continue to be dry,” Leuschen-Lonergan said.

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Helena Dore can be reached at hdore@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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