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Willow Creek Fire Holding At 350 Acres, Crews Mopping Up

Cory Calnan and Greg Gianforte stand in front of a backdrop of burned land. Some sage brush, juniper trees and patches of grass are untouched, while other areas are charred black.
courtesy Montana Governor's Office
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Cory Calnan (L), county coop program manager for the Montana Department of Natural Resource and Conservation, and Gov. Greg Gianforte survey the Willow Creek Fire site on June 11, 2021.

High winds buffeted the region Thursday but the Willow Creek Fire in Jefferson County did not grow in size.

Crystal Beckman, fire public information officer, said Friday morning that better mapping estimates the fire burned 350 acres of grass, brush and timber on private land about six miles southwest of Three Forks.

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has identified the fire as human caused.

The fire was 10% contained as of Friday morning.

Federal, state and local fire crews are working to secure the fire’s perimeter and begin mop-up operations. Mop-up is when hand crews grid the burned area looking for hot spots and extinguishing any they find.

There are no current closures or evacuations with the Willow Creek Fire, although Jefferson County officials did contact residents in 54 structures along Milligan Canyon Road on Wednesday that they were threatened if the fire made a run.

The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation’s County Assist team led by Incident Commander David Hamilton assumed management of the fire Thursday at noon.

The Willow Creek Fire was first reported Wednesday afternoon, according to an incident overview posted to InciWeb. Local, state and federal firefighters responded, as did fire departments from Gallatin, Broadwater and Jefferson counties.

Four helicopters dropped water on the fire’s flaming front to aid ground crews that worked into the evening Wednesday.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte toured the fire site and was briefed by incident command Friday.

In an emailed press release, he said, “After receiving the 2021 Fire Season Briefing this week, I reaffirmed the state’s commitment to an aggressive initial response to wildfires and to improving our forest management to pro-actively reduce the risks of catastrophic wildfires.”

An update on InciWeb says 126 personnel are assigned to the fire.

Kay Erickson has been working in broadcasting in Billings for more than 20 years. She spent well over a decade as news assignment editor at KTVQ-TV before joining the staff at YPR. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, with a degree in broadcast journalism. Shortly after graduation she worked in Great Falls where she was one of the first female sports anchor and reporter in Montana.