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

Wildfire Roundup For July 13, 2017

A firefighter was struck by a falling tree and killed while fighting fire in the Lolo National Forest Wednesday.
A crew "cold tailing" a portion of the July Fire near Zortman

Updated 10:45 AM.

In Northwest Montana:

Weather conditions kept behavior of the Lazier Creek 3 Fire "moderate" yesterday, firefighters report. Today's estimate of the fire's size remaines at 1,145 acres, and 30 percent contained, the same as yesterday. There are 176 personnel assigned to the fire.

The fire is located south of Highway 2 and west of the Thompson River Road.

The northwestern perimeter of the fire contains numerous spot fires, which are still holding heat, so crews concentrated on extinguishing the hot spots as they improved the line. Firefighters , including hotshot crews, will continue to improve and construct fire line on the south and eastern portions of the fire with hand crews and heavy equipment again today. Aircraft, including both Type 1 and Type 2 helicopters, are assisting the firefighters efforts with bucket drops as needed. Crews working on the north, west and southwest flanks of the fire will continue to hold and improve fire line. An additional crew has begun assessing structures and determining protection needs.

Containment on the 78 acre Rogers Mountain Fire bumped up slightly to 49 percent yesterday. There are 77 firefighters assigned to that fire, located three miles Northwest of Happy’s Inn.

Fire managers say that, "in order to utilize an existing road as a portion of the fire line, firefighters backed fire downslope using hand ignition along the southern perimeter of the fire on Wednesday. This effort allowed firefighters to tie the fire line into a dozer line that was built along the eastern fire edge. Today, firefighters will continue laying hose into the interior of the fire and extinguishing hot spots as part of the mop up efforts. Crews on the south end of the fire will work to secure the fire line and mop up along yesterday’s burn out."

The NW Meadow Peak Fire, a few miles east of the Rogers Mountain Fire is also a few percent more contained than yesterday, at 79 percent contained. That  11.5 acre fire has 14 firefighters assigned to it. Yesterday, firefighters successfully completed the fire line around the perimeter of the burn. In addition to fire line construction crews laid hoses along the fire’s perimeter which will allow firefighters to utilize water in their mop up efforts.

There are still 33 people assigned to the 15 acre Grubb Fire, located north of Pleasant Valley, which is 100 percent contained, 33 personnel assigned. Engine crews are finishing up mop up efforts on the interior of the fire and looking for any remaining pockets of heat.

The 3.25 acre 2645 Fire,  located near the NW Meadow Peak Fire is 50 percent, contained with 7 firefighters assigned to it. Crews have constructed fire line along the entire perimeter of the fire and have inserted hose lays in order to extinguish hot spots utilizing water from the engines.

 The Thompson River Road is closed at the junction with Highway 2 south to the 28 mile marker. County Road 257 remains open.

Temperatures will continue to rise and relative humidity will decrease as we move into this weekend. Winds, however, will remain relatively light through the remainder of the week.

In Eastern Montana:

Yesterday’s cooler temperatures and higher humidity reduced intensity on the 11,384 acre July Fire,  allowing crews to make great progress on the fire line. That fire grew an estimated 210 acres yesterday. It is now being called 80 percent contained. There are 357 people assigned to it. 

Supported by "optimal weather conditions," aircraft and crews on the ground continued burnout operations in the northern area to remove unburned fuels in the interior. Firefighters on foot continued to patrol for hotspots along cool areas of the fire.

Today, weather conditions should favor another successful firefighting effort. Residents and visitors will continue to see smoke in the area as crews continue burnouts as needed to increase containment and remove interior pockets of un-burned fuel.

BLM Law Enforcement continues to investigate the July Fire as a suspected human caused fire. 

Crews have begun working on rehabilitating fire lines used to contain the fire. Heavy equipment will still be present during the rehabilitation process and caution should be used by area residents and visitors. Fire hoses, equipment and pumps are being removed in some areas where there has been no recent fire activity as crews focus their efforts on burn out operations and furthering the containment line progression.

The Blue Ridge Complex of fires 39 miles northwest of Jordan is now estimated at 1,533 acres and 75 percent containment. 

Initial attack resources are being released from the complex today, and management transferred from a Type 3 to a Type 4 team. 

A statement on InciWeb says: "Acres reported are not accurate due to large burnout operation that combined Curry, Russell & Westholder into one fire. This large fire is only 70% contained. Germaine fire reported at 100% contained. 5011 incident is 201 acres and 80% contained. Entire complex reported at 75% contained."

The Tongue River Complex near Lame Deer and Ashland is now estimated at 31,232 acres and 75 percent contained, burning in short grass, brush and timber. Firefighters there report "moderate fire activity with some creeping and smoldering."

The complex consists of the Lee Creek Fire, which is 90 percent contained, and the Witten Fire which is 65 percent contained. There are 256 people fighting those fires.