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Wildfire, fire management and air quality news for western Montana and the Northern Rockies.

Fire Evacuations Ordered Near Noxon, Warnings In Effect For Essex

Residents of Essex and surrounding communities are advised to prepare for possible evacuation as the Sheep Fire burns a couple miles south of town.
Jonathan Moor/Inciweb
Residents of Essex and surrounding communities are advised to prepare for possible evacuation as the Sheep Fire burns a couple miles south of town.

Some residents near Noxon have been ordered to evacuate due to wildfire, and an evacuation warning is in effect for Essex.

Evacuations have been ordered for homes near the Napoleon fire that’s burning on about 2,100 acres near the western Montana state line. The evacuation order is for houses along Highway 56 between mileposts 8 and 14.

Kootenai National Forest Fire Information Officer John Head says residents were advised to be out by noon on Wednesday.

"There’s probably 17 residences in there that are under evacuation orders. In addition to that there is the East Fork Bull River Road that branches off from the highway, multiple residences are up there and we will be issuing precautionary evacuation notices to those folks."

A pre-evacuation warning has also been issued for people in the Essex area along Highway 2, south of Glacier National Park.

Sonja Hartman is a fire information officer for the area being affected by the Sheep Fire.

"If you’re in Essex it’s a good time to pull your things together and prepare."

Hartman says that warning has ratcheted up from when it was issued earlier this afternoon.

"We’ve moved from the ready stage of evacuation for the Essex area to the set sage. So we have a higher concern of fire eventually making it to the highway."

Hartman says about 50 homes, 20 businesses and 20 minor building are currently in the pre-evacuation area. She says conditions on the Sheep fire got pretty bad today.

"We have pulled firefighters off the fire today with firefighter safety concerns. We’ve now using more air attack to try and slow the fire from reaching highway 2."

But, Hartman says, it’s still not clear that the Sheep fire will actually reach homes and businesses in the Essex area.

"At this time the fire may not be moving directly toward Essex. It is going down a ridge that points more at the Goatlick area. And it hasn’t been doing a lot of spotting except a little bit down that ridge. So like I said it’s not imminent that it’s heading into Essex. But we sure want people to be prepared."

Stage-II fire restrictions will go into effect Thursday morning across northwest Montana. These restrictions include: the Flathead and Kootenai National Forests, Bob Marshall Wilderness Lands within the Flathead National Forest, Glacier National Park, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 1, and Flathead, Lake, Lincoln and Sanders Counties.

A cold front with strong winds is stirring up fires as it moves through parts northwest Montana.

Find the latest Montana wildfire news here.

[This post was updated at 7:00 p.m. 08/19/15 to note a increased warning-level for evacuations in Essex.]

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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