Wigwam Fire

A man fishes in the Madison River on Monday amidst smoke caused by the nearby Wigwam fire.

that is estimated to be burning 1,969 acres southwest of Ennis in the Gravelly Mountains.

ENNIS— The smoke wasn't as bad as it was on Sunday, but people here could still see the plume rising from the Wigwam fire, a blaze that has already fried roughly 2,000 acres and prompted evacuations from a subdivision. 

About 20 homes in the Haypress Lakes subdivision were evacuated early Sunday. Several more received an evacuation warning, telling them they would likely be evacuated if the blaze reached a certain point.

Duane Gregg received an evacuation warning. On Monday, with smoke billowing up to the west, he hitched his camp trailer and packed it with supplies and important belongings. For now, he planned to take his wife to the Red Cross evacuation center at Ennis High School but he wasn't going to stay there. 

"I'm going to come back here and hopefully protect this place," he said. 

The fire, caused by lightning, was discovered Saturday and grew quickly. Fire officials who flew over the blaze estimated its size at 1,969 acres, burning mixed conifer trees. Farther south, the much larger Monument fire was estimated at 4,215 acres as of deadline. The Johnny Ridge and Gravelly Range roads are closed to Black Butte. 

Though smaller than the other, the Wigwam fire is much closer to homes that could be lost to fire. It started within just a few miles of the Haypress Lakes subdivision, and officials ordered the evacuations for Haypress Lake Road and Boiler springs from early Sunday morning. Evacuation warnings have been issued from a Y in the road southeast toward Shining Mountain subdivision. 

Dave Sabo, a fire spokesman, said no structures had burned as of Monday afternoon.

The Sportsman's Lodge, in Ennis, was providing space for RVs, horses and additional cars for evacuees. Red Cross volunteers at the high school said most people who were evacuated found somewhere else to stay, but locals had donated supplies in case they do need to serve people. 

"We're open in case they need a place," said volunteer Robin Cory. 

Darlene Kristovich, one of the owners of the Ennis Cafe, said she and her husband preemptively evacuated from their home. She said her daughter brought over a trailer and they filled it with belongings. 

"We loaded all the irreplaceable stuff," Kristovich said. "Pictures, stuff like that."

She was at the cafe on Monday, but one of her cooks wasn't. The cook is a volunteer firefighter, and Kristovich said he took the day off to fight the fire.

In all, 78 firefighters were working both blazes Monday. A Type 2 incident management team had been ordered. Two helicopters are there. Water and retardant are also being used to stem the fire's growth. 

Volunteer firefighters from departments in Madison, Gallatin and Beaverhead counties gathered at the Madison Valley Rural Fire Department's Station No. 3, not far from Varney Bridge. They stood next to their engines and watched the smoke plume ebb and flow as the Wigwam fire made moves. A helicopter occasionally zipped by with a bucket of water.

Gregg lives across the road from the station. He has lived there for 24 years and has never had fire that close to his house. He was working on weeding his yard, hoping to eliminate potential fire-carrying materials.

He and a neighbor have made plans to dash down the road if the fire comes running toward them. In the meantime, he's hoping to ensure the fire can't reach his house.

If it comes, he said, "these firefighters aren't going to be able to protect every house in here."

Chronicle Staff Writer Freddy Monares contributed to this report.

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.