An abandoned campfire is to blame for a wind-driven wildfire that scorched at least 100 acres of land along the Bear Trap National Recreation Trail, north of Ennis, over the weekend.
As of Sunday night, 11 firefighters with the Forest Service remained on the scene putting out hot spots, Forest Service spokeswoman Leona Rodreick told The Montana Standard.
Authorities are asking people who may have seen anything in the area that would help in the fire investigation to call the Madison County sheriff at
The fire started Saturday mid-afternoon about 3.5 miles south of the trailhead, which is located along Highway 287, 8 miles east of Norris. The area, along the Madison River, is popular with hikers and rafters. Authorities evacuated an estimated 100 people who were recreating there — in summer-like weather — when the fire broke out, Rodreick said.
Access to the Bear Trap National Recreation Trail, which wends through the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, is closed until further notice, Rodreick said.
Rodreick said crews are expected to be working at the fire for a couple of days. She said high winds — strong enough to create white caps on the Madison River — played a role in fueling the fire on Sunday.
The isolated area has burned previously, most recently about 15 years ago, she said.
She emphasized that although it’s spring and appears wet, the grassland is dry.
“Don’t be deceived,” she said, and encouraged people to use caution with campfires.
Firefighters from the Bureau of Land Management, Madison County, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Ennis Volunteer Fire Department assisted the Forest Service in the management of the fire.
— Montana Standard staff