Although the conditions were right for a massive wildfire in the Helena area, firefighters were able to get a handle on two blazes Tuesday.
But dangerous fire conditions remain for the rest of the week.
“Fire season is here now. We have a lot of fuel,” said John Grassy, public information officer with the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.
“All it takes to start a fire is a catalytic converter or a hot undercarriage of a vehicle, so people need to be careful,” he added.
A fire on Chevallier Ranch sparked in pastureland at about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday. The blaze charred about 30 acres, according to Ben Baker, chief of the Canyon Creek Volunteer Fire Department.
Fire crews from multiple agencies were joined by a retardant-dropping plane and a helicopter, which extinguished flames with buckets of water. Smoke from the fire could be seen from Interstate 15. Two structures are in the area of the fire but were not threatened by the blaze.
The fire was 75 percent contained as of 10 p.m. Grassy said crews will be on the fire overnight and about 30 personnel will return this morning to help mop up the scene. Grassy anticipated the fire would be completely contained by evening.
The area of Chevallier Drive near the fire was closed Tuesday afternoon and is now open, but officials urge residents to stay off the road if possible as fire personnel will remain in the area.
Kay Chevallier said the ranch’s cattle were not in the area of the fire. The family was alerted to the fire by a passerby.
The Chevalliers quickly jumped to action with Ed Chevallier taking a bulldozer to dig a trench. Jessica Chevallier, 16, and Amber Chevallier, 14, grabbed shovels and ran across the road to the fire.
“It took about three seconds and it was in the trees,” Jessica Chevallier said, while watching firefighters battling the blaze from her front yard.
“And it was roaring,” Amber Chevallier added.
Baker said the first thing he did after arriving on the scene was call for mutual aid. About 40 personnel from Canyon Creek, Eastgate, East Valley, TriLakes, Baxendale and Lewis and Clark County volunteer fire departments responded alongside firefighters with the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and the U.S. Forest Service.
Detectives and deputies with the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office were on hand to look into the cause of the fire, which remains under investigation.
Late Tuesday morning, rural firefighters quickly extinguished a potentially dangerous grassfire on Diehl Ranch.
Crews were called to the scene just off of Highway 12 East at 10:44 a.m.
Ken Mergenthaler, chief of Eastgate Volunteer Fire Department, said a total of about 6 acres were charred along with four straw bales.
Luckily, the blaze stayed in a stubble field, he said.
“The wind was pushing it pretty hard,” Mergenthaler added.
The fire was caused by a work truck that had stopped in tall grass.
No injuries were reported. The fire damaged a power pole and a few fence posts. No structures were threatened.
Firefighters from Eastgate and TriLakes fire departments along with crews from the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and the Forest Service had the fire contained within 30 minutes. Members of the Diehl Ranch also aided in efforts.
“The next several days are going to be very critical,” Mergenthaler added.
Reporter Angela Brandt: 447-4078 or firstname.lastname@example.org