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Updated 8:35 a.m.: The Forest Service said Saturday that the fire had grown to 400 acres. 

A total of 110 people are at the blaze and more crews are expected to arrive later Saturday. 

Crews responded to a wildfire northeast of Bozeman in the Bridger Mountains north of the “M” trail on Friday.

The Bridger Foothills fire was estimated at 400 acres Saturday morning. Airplanes dropped retardant on the fire on Friday, leaving streaks of red around the charred trees all afternoon.

Marna Daley, a Custer Gallatin National Forest spokesperson, announced at around 5 p.m., officials were evacuating the “M,” Sypes Canyon and Bridger Foothills trails. The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook later Friday that all hikers were safe and accounted for.

As of Friday at 8 p.m., all trails from Middle Cottonwood up to Saddle Peak were closed, including all trails tying in with Bridger Bowl’s southern boundary and running south to the “M” parking lot.

A small plume of smoke could be seen halfway up the foothills at around 4:30 p.m., but the flames quickly raced up the canyon behind the “M.” Smoke billowed outward and could be seen all across the valley. Helicopters circled the blaze.

Police formed a barricade at the intersection of Story Mill Road with Bridger Canyon Road, blocking any traffic from driving up the highway. The Forest Service said late Friday that the road is open only to resident traffic between that intersection and the intersection with Kelly Canyon Road until further notice. 

Two large air tankers, four single engine air tankers, firefighters and smokejumpers were all responding to the blaze. Two helicopters were dropping water.

Dan Springer, undersheriff at the Gallatin Valley Sheriff’s Office, said at around 6 p.m., that weather conditions “are not in our favor” for the next few days. People on the east side of the ridge were notified of the fire, he said.

Tom Holcombe peered at the fire through binoculars and a telescope he set up at his blacksmith shop along Bridger Canyon Road.

Holcombe said he watched the action with Kaia Poes, who works at his shop.

“It grew quickly,” Holcombe said.

Poes, who owns a home on the eastern side of the Bridgers, said she was worried about her pets, as she was blocked from going up Bridger Canyon to retrieve them. She said she would try driving up Jackson Creek Road from Bozeman Pass.

“I live up in the mountains, and I’m prepared to evacuate if I have to,” she said.

Poes said she was impressed with the quick response to the fire, as it took 22 minutes for the fire to reach the ridge from when she first saw it.

“It’s just a matter of everyone being extremely cautious, especially this year,” she said.

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Helena Dore can be reached at or at 582-2628.

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