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Part of Beartooth WMA Burns

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Headlines - Region 4

A small portion of the 32,300-acre Beartooth Wildlife Management Area burned Monday as the Meriwether fire surged north along the east side of Holter Lake, state officials said.

“It’s now threatening private land to the north of the WMA,” said Gary Bertellotti, Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 4 supervisor.

The fire traveled northeast out of the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness through the WMA’s Willow, Elkhorn and Cottonwood creek drainages.

The amount of acreage burned remains uncertain because of the fluctuating condition of the fire.

Several hours before the fire expanded onto the WMA, state officials closed the Beartooth.

Fire fighters on the scene are from area volunteer fire departments, the Forest Service, Montana Department of Natural Resources, and the Sterling Ranch, which borders the Beartooth on the north.

“They were able to save the buildings at the Beartooth, so far,” Bertellotti said.

Also Monday, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Cheryl Liedle issued evacuation advisories for people on the east side of Holter Lake, from Log Gulch campground north to Prairie Dog Town, said fire information officer Bonney McNabb.

Previously, the federal Bureau of Land Management had closed the Beartooth road along the east shore of Holter Lake near Indian Trails marina. The BLM campground at Log Gulch also had been closed.

A popular recreation spot, the Beartooth WMA encompasses 32,300 acres on the north side of the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness Area. FWP has owned the property since 1970.