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

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 18, 2016

Aerial photo of the Roaring Lion Fire in the Ward Bowl area on August 17, 2016
Aerial photo of the Roaring Lion Fire in the Ward Bowl area on August 17, 2016

The latest on wildfires around western Montana.

Last Update: 5:00 p.m. 08/18/16

Wildfires in Yellowstone National Park are collectively burning over 10,000 acres. The Tatanka (Buffalo) Complex is made up of the Fawn Fire, Maple Fire, and Buffalo Fire, Thumb fire, and the newly discovered Grayling fires. The largest of those is Maple, currently measured at 7,793 acres.

The Boundary Fire, burning about four miles north of West Yellowstone, is being managed separately from the Tatanka Complex. Crews are building hand lines and direct lines to stop the fire's progress. The fire has forced closures on Forest Service lands directly west of the park boundary.

Closures due to the Boundary Fire run from the intersection of Highway 191 and Duck Creek Road (#2523 south side of the road), to Yellowstone National Park boundary, including the fishing access road at the end of Duck Creek road, south along YNP line to the north side of the Madison River bluff, then north along east side of highway 191 back to the starting point, excluding the transfer station and road #6794.

Separate resources are being put towards the Tatanka Complex, where some fires are being allowed to burn and others are being monitored or suppressed.

Fire officials predict a drop in fire activity today as clouds, cooler temperature, and rain make their way across Yellowstone. They warn that an increase in smoke activity today could impact driving, and smoke may be visible in areas where it hasn't previously been seen.

A new lightning holdover fire was discovered 10 miles northeast of Butte today. Due to its dangerous location, the half-acre Nez Perce fire will be monitored, but no crews have been assigned to it.

“The fire is burning on an extremely rocky slope in a mixed stand of dead standing lodgepole pine, Douglas-fir and subalpine fir. “The risk of injury or worse to our firefighters isn’t worth putting them on that hillside so I’ve decided we will monitor the fire every day instead. We have a plan in place to take more aggressive action if necessary” said Butte-Jefferson District Ranger Dave Sabo.

The Copper King Fire continues to burn eight miles outside of Thompson Falls and one mile north of Highway 200. The fire increased in size again since yesterday, jumping from 2,278 acres to 2,577. Officials cite the hot weather and gusty winds for the fire's expansion in Buckeye Canyon and in the southeast corner of the fire above Highway 200.

Crew leaders insist that the safety of firefighters will not be compromised by sending them into such steep and inaccessible terrain.

Hand lines and defensive burns along the ACM road and other perimeters of the fire are being reinforced for stability.

A nightshift continues to patrol areas with private residences and structures, checking on hose lays and sprinkler systems. Officials warn that residential air quality may be impacted by increased smoke levels.

The Roaring Lion Fire five miles southwest of Hamilton also increased in acreage as of this morning. Due to increases in the Ward bowl area and the northwest of the Sawtooth Creek, the fire went from 8,311 acres yesterday to 8,465 today.

Officials say that the defensive lines have held and the fire is still considered 70 percent contained. Smokejumpers, firefighters, and helicopters are all attending to the fire in the bowl area.

The western edge of the fire and the interior will continue to show activity throughout the day, despite the cold front moving in. Residents should expect to see smoke throughout the day.

The Black Mountain Fire burning north of Lincoln since Tuesday is actively burning across eight acres. There are now 60 personnel involved. No containment percentage has been reported.

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