A wildfire in the upper corridor of the Benchmark area about 30 miles west of Augusta had spread to approximately 25 to 35 acres by about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The fire, which was believed to be caused by a lightning strike, was reported around 1:30 p.m., according to Dave Cunningham, public affairs officer for the Lewis and Clark National Forest.

Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton and his deputies were working with Forest Service personnel to evacuate the area, said Cunningham. “The sheriff’s department will post a roadblock so people are not allowed back in.”

Cunningham estimates there are about 48 recreational cabins, as well as a guest ranch and a Forest Service campground in the area. It also has “the most heavily used trailhead accessing the Bob Marshall Complex,” he said.

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As of Tuesday evening, two helicopters using bucket drops and an aerial tanker dropping retardant were responding. It was unknown if any ground crews were also working the fire and what agencies had responded.

“We are evaluating the fire as far as further suppressant efforts,” Cunningham said.

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Reporter Marga Lincoln can be reached at 447-4083 marga.lincoln@helenair.com

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