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

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 23, 2016

The latest on wildfires around western Montana.

Last Update 4:25 p.m. 08/23/16

Mandatory evacuation restrictions have been lifted for the area northwest of Missoula where a fire broke out about 24 hours ago.

The Missoula County Sheriff’s office says their staff members will still be posted in the Colorado Gulch area to make sure that only residents are returning. Law enforcement and fire officials are asking only Grant Creek residents enter the Grant Creek area to keep roadways clear for continued fire operations.

The Colorado Gulch fire is now being called 50 percent contained. The fire is estimated at 15 acres in size and an initial fireline has been constructed around its perimeter.

About 20 homes were evacuated yesterday evening as multiple agencies attacked the fire from the air and on the ground. One recreational vehicle a person was living in was destroyed. Its resident was located safe.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

A Wyoming wildfire has prompted the closure of Yellowstone National Park’s southern entrance.

The 6,300 acre Berry Fire is burning in Grand Teton National Park and flared up yesterday. Fire information officer Brian Lawatch says it spotted over the northern portion of the park’s Jackson Lake:

"And then spotted over the highway that runs from Jackson to Yellowstone National Park. So, we instituted a closure all the way up to the south gate of Yellowstone National Park for visitor safety and fire danger."

Lawatch says visitors who intended to use Yellowstone’s southern entrance should instead now plan on a detour.

"It is possible to drive around the Tetons, through Idaho to the town of West Yellowstone to get into the park. I would also recommend contacting Yellowstone National Park and looking at the website to see what the fire situation is in Yellowstone as well."

Several wildfires are burning in Yellowstone. Two of them, the Maple and Fawn fires have prompted several trail and campsite closures.

In Washington, Governor Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency for 20 counties in response to wildfires that threaten homes and natural resources. Inslee issued the declaration today after touring fire scenes in the Spokane region. Inslee noted that hot and windy weather conditions are forecast in the Spokane area for the next seven days.

Last Update: 2:30 p.m. 08/23/16

The Colorado Gulch fire that broke out yesterday evening northwest of Missoula is now being called 50 percent contained, and evacuations are expected to be lifted this evening. That’s according to the Missoula County Sheriff’s office.

The fire is being called 15 acres in size and an initial fireline has been constructed around its perimeter.

About 20 homes were evacuated yesterday evening as multiple agencies attacked the fire from the air and on the ground. One recreational vehicle a person was living in was destroyed. Its resident was located safe.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Cool temperatures and calm winds are helping crews battle The Bierney Creek wildfire burning west of Lakeside in Flathead County. The 80-acre fire took off yesterday afternoon.

Fire spokeswoman Ali Evans says firefighters attacked it from both the ground and the air:

"The lines that they put down yesterday evening held," Evans said. "This morning, the fire behavior decreased; it’s much less than it was yesterday evening, obviously when it was hot, dry and windy. I also know that they’re expecting slightly higher humidity this afternoon with the possibility for rain."

There are between 75 and 100 homes within a half mile of the fire. No mandatory evacuation orders have yet been issued.

"But that said, it is the middle of August and there is a fire burning," Evans said. "Anybody living in the vicinity should be aware that an evacuation is possible, depending on what happens with the fire."

That means local residents should think about what they’ll take and where they’ll go if an evacuation order is issued.

Last Update: 10:15 a.m. 08/23/16

The approximately 15-acre Colorado Gulch fire near Missoula was quickly addressed last night, resulting in the evacuation of the 20-25 homes. A "fifth wheel residence" was damaged by the fire, but the resident living there has been accounted for.

The residents of Starwood Drive are in pre-evacuation mode, but have not yet been told to leave.

The Rattlesnake National Recreation area remains open, according to the spokesman for Lolo National Forest, Boyd Hartwig,

The cause of the fire is unknown and currently being investigated.

In Lakeside, the 80 acre Bierney Creek Fire burned within a quarter mile of 75-100 homes. Although structures are threatened, there have been no evacuation orders  so far,according to the Flathead Beacon.

Helicopters and planes dropped water and retardant on the fire throughout yesterday evening. The cause of the fire is unknown.

After causing the evacuation of 20 homes around Thompson Falls early Monday morning, the Copper King Fire is reported to have grown to 21,045 acres. The official acreage as of last night was 6,908.

Over the last few weeks, the Type 3 team working on the fire achieved 30 percent containment. Now that number has dropped to 15 percent.

Greg Poncin's Type 1 team, the same that tackled the Roaring Lion Fire in early August, is working to create new containment lines and proactively burn pockets of fuel to limit the fire from spreading.

A total of nine crews, a combination of Type 1 and Type 2, are engaged with the fire for a final number of 356 personnel.

Officials say that red flag weather conditions persisted through last night. The weather is forecast to be cooler and less windy over the next several days, with temperatures in the low to mid-70s, and relative humidity in the 20-35 percent range. Winds are expected to be 5-10 miles per hour generally, with gusts up to 15mph. There is a slight chance of showers in the afternoon and evening. The fire is expected to move north and east towards Munson Creek as well as towards Weeksville.
Credit Copper King Fire Response Teams
A map of the Copper King Fire and the surrounding area as of August 23, 2016

In Yellowstone National Park, the 192-acre Boundary Fire is 75 percent contained. Located four miles north of West Yellowstone, its cause is still unknown.

The Tatanka Complex, also in Yellowstone, consists of the following five fires: Maple (22,448 acres), Fawn (1,496 acres), Buffalo (2,279 acres), Thumb (1.1 acres), and Grayling 2 (.5 acres). Only the Thumb Fire is reported to be 100 percent contained. Both the Maple and Fawn fires have prompted a slew of campsite and trail closures. Find out more about those closureshere.

The Roaring Lion Fire five miles southwest of Hamilton has been inundated with smoke from two fires in Idaho, both of which are approximately 11 air miles away.

88 people are monitoring that fire, particularly in the Ward Bowl area north of Camas Creek and south of Sawtooth Creek. The 8,520 acre fire is 80 percent contained.

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