4.5-square-mile fire burns 2 southern Montana homes, forces evacuations

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BILLINGS, Montana — Stillwater County officials have lifted an evacuation order for a subdivision near a 4.5-square-mile fire in south-central Montana, but roads remain closed to the public and the crews are bracing for strong winds forecast for Tuesday afternoon.

The evacuation order was lifted Monday morning for the more than 50 homes in the Pine Crest subdivision near Columbus, where two homes were burned.

The fire started early Saturday afternoon. The cause is still under investigation.

Fire information officer Crystal Beckman says the fire is 10 percent contained and firefighters completed a burn operation Sunday to reduce available fuel.

Crews planned to work Monday on securing fire lines and cooling down hotspots ahead of winds forecast to gust to 20 mph on Monday afternoon. A fire weather watch forecasts warmer temperatures, lower humidity and wind gusts up to 45 mph on Tuesday.

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