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

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 28, 2015

A view of the Little Joe Fire from Thursday, August 27, 2015.
A view of the Little Joe Fire from Thursday, August 27, 2015.

Stage 2 fire restrictions went into effect in the Missoula area today. The restrictions apply to public and private lands in Missoula, Mineral, Sanders, Granite and Ravalli counties, including the Lolo and Bitterroot National Forests, BLM and state lands.

Under Stage II the Following Acts are prohibited until the Order is rescinded:

1. Building maintaining, attending, or using a fire or campfire.

2. Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.

3. The following acts are prohibited from 1:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. except as otherwise described in this Order below:

a. Operating any internal combustion engine.

b. Welding, or operating acetylene or other torch with open flame.

c. Using an explosive.

Also, a one-hour foot patrol in the work area is required following the cessation of all activities as identified in #3 above.

4. Operating motorized vehicles off designated roads and trails.

Powell and Lake Counties remain under Stage 1 restrictions.

Thompson Divide Complex
A day after the evacuation of Essex, the Sheep Fire south of Glacier National Park made only minor gains toward the town.

A Red Flag Warning was issued this afternoon for strong winds and low humidity. Those conditions are expected to cause active fire behavior including short range spotting. Fire Information Officer Gregg DeNitto says crews are still working to create a fuel break to protect the BNSF railroad track that runs through Essex, parallel to Highway 2.

"And what they have been doing is clearing out the brush, thinning out the trees to open up the canopy and separate the crowns so that if the fire were to come down it would slow that fire down and move that fire down into a ground fire."

The fire is burning 1,600 hundred acres and is about 125 yards away from the railroad tracks. The fire is still around a mile away from Essex.

Highway 2 remains closed but BNSF trains and Amtrak are running intermittently.

Strong winds are expected to continue into tomorrow before a cold front on Sunday.

Clark Fork Complex
A new pre-evacuation notice was posted this morning for an area south of Troy. Two housing developments on the shores of Bull Lake are in the pre-evacuation area, which is along a six mile stretch of Highway 56. The Sanders County Sheriff’s department says residents in the pre-evacuation area should be monitoring emergency services information and be ready to leave quickly.

The area is being threatened by one of the six fires in the Clark Fork Complex, which had burned nearly 15,000 acres as of this morning, growing 1,000 acres since yesterday. Several closures are in effect in the area.

Firefighters had to halt a burn-out operation on the Napoleon fire after winds picked up and spread some small spot fires.

Fireline stopped the spread of the Government Fire at the intersection of Forest Service land and Highway 56.

Hot-shot crews and heavy equipment will continue to build and reinforce line along the 332 Road at the north end of the Whitetail Fire, burning just south of Clark Fork, ID. Officials say high winds forecast for this weekend could test the line. They plan to increase helicopter use as the smoke clears, and before high winds arrive.

West Fork Fish Creek Fire
Precautionary evacuations remain in place in Mineral County due to the West Fork Fish Creek Fire which grew to 2,900 acres after being started by a lightning strike Thursday. 15-20 cabins and homes in the Fish Creek drainage, along with the Hole in the Wall Ranch near Clearwater Crossing Campground a covered under the evacuation order.

Bear Creek Fire
The largest fire burning in Montana today is the 34,000 acre Bear Creek Fire on the Spotted Bear Ranger District southeast of Hungry Horse Reservoir. That fire has exhibited extreme behavior, including uphill runs, torching, and spotting. Closures to the Bob Marshall and Great Bear Wilderness on the Spotted Bear Ranger District were announced yesterday due to fire activity. Firefighters continue to assess and monitor the fire for direct attack suppression.

Morrell Complex
North of Seeley Lake, the two fires making up the Morrell Complex grew together Thursday. Firefighters secured the west flank and began burnout operations ahead of the fire. Personnel and aircraft are being moved to the southeast perimeter with a goal of keeping the fire above Rice Ridge Road. They expect active fire weather this weekend. The Morrell Complex has burned 700 acres and is estimated at 40 percent contained.

Closures remain in place in the area, including the Morrell Falls & Pyramid Pass trailheads. A temporary flight restriction is also in place over the fire for the safety of firefighters and aircraft.

Little Joe Fire
A new lightning-caused fire is burning 7 miles southwest of St. Regis on the Superior Ranger District. The 120 acre fire isn’t currently threatening any structures, but an area closure is in place. 17 firefighters are working the fire, and a Type-3 management team has been ordered.


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