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

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 28, 2017

Firefighters from the Oklahoma and Mission Valley inital attack crews construct fire line on the north side of the Blue Bay Fire.
Ron Swaney - Inciweb
Firefighters from the Oklahoma and Mission Valley inital attack crews construct fire line on the north side of the Blue Bay Fire.

The lightning-caused Conrow Fire burning seven miles northeast of Whitehall started last Thursday and as of Monday afternoon was about 25 percent contained. Bulldozers crews have pushed a containment line along the southwest and southeast flanks, adding to burnout efforts to prevent the fire from spreading toward nearby homes, cattle ranches, and mining sites. 

Fire information officer Ted Pettis says most of the 25 threatened buildings are behind containment lines.

“Pretty much all those houses are on the south and east flanks of the fire. And they’re about two miles out from the fire edge, where we have it contained," Pettis says.

A pre evacuation warning is in place for the fire area along Highway 69 corridor.

The Mendenhall fire burning near Springdale, about 18 miles west of Big Timber was five percent contained as of Monday afternoon. The fire started on Saturday. Aircraft spent the Monday dousing flare ups within the interior of the fire and securing the fire perimeter.

A pre-evacuation notice is in effect for people living on the West Boulder Road in Sweet Grass County.

The cause of the Mendenhall fire is still under investigation.

The waters of Seeley Lake were closed to recreation this afternoon due to firefighting operations on the Rice Ridge Fire. The closure applies to all recreation, such as boating, swimming, wading and fishing, so that aircraft crews can safely operate as they dip water from the lake. Officials say the closure will be in place until fire crews no longer need to use the lake for suppression efforts. For up-to-date information on this closure and restrictions related to drought and fire, visit or call the FWP office in Missoula at 406-542-5500.

This weekend, Firefighters successfully completed small firing operations along the west and southwest edge of the fire that will aid in securing fire line. The fire was very active along un-contained areas to the north, east and southeast. Containment on the 28,000 acre fire is up to 22 percent.

All air operations on the fire had to be halted Sunday afternoon due to a drone incursion. Flying drones near wildfires is illegal and dangerous.

A community meeting will be held tonight at 6 p.m. at the Seeley Lake Elementary.

The Alice Creek Fire is burning near the Continental Divide in the Alice Creek Drainage, Falls Creek Drainage, Red Mountain and Lewis and Clark Pass areas. Given the steep topography and abundant standing dead trees, firefighters are taking advantage of ridges, areas where the timber transitions to grass and other natural barriers to stop the fire’s growth.

Firefighters are taking proactive measures to protect community homes and infrastructure in the Elk Meadows/Evergreen Subdivision while implementing actions to keep the fire on the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest.

Structure protection engines are assessing structures and developing protection plans for the Elk Meadows/Evergreen Subdivision Meadow area, located along the fire’s eastern flank where evacuation notices have been issued for approximately 13 residential homes and ranches.

Yesterday, the fire grew an additional 1,419 acres, bringing the total fire size to 5,266 acres. Due to the significant fire growth that occurred the past three days, over 4,000 acres, the containment of the fire is now 0 percent.

Gusty wind with hot and dry conditions will prevail through the week. This environment promotes aggressive fire behavior and growth that is prolonging the burning through the midnight hours.

Evacuations: Lewis and Clark County Sheriff issued mandatory evacuations for residences in the Elk Meadows (Evergreen) subdivision and to ranches on Road 434/435 (north of Highway 200). A Pre-evacuation notice was given to residences located near Elk Meadows subdivision (about mile-marker 93) along Hwy 200 up to mile-marker 98. A Red Cross shelter is open in Helena at First Assembly of God Church (2210 Dodge Ave.).

Lewis and Clark Co. Sheriff officers are staffing roads blocks located at Elk Meadows driveway, the intersection of Hwy. 200 and Hwy. 434 and the intersection of Flat creek Rd and Hwy. 434 to prevent unnecessary traffic from entering the fire area.

Due to the fire activity, an area closure is in-place that affects multiple trails and roads. A trail re-route is established for hikers along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. A map of the area closure is posted at:

There is a community meeting today at 7 p.m. at the Augusta Youth Center.

On the 38,000 acre Lolo Peak Fire, fire activity increased Sunday with the return of dry air to the fire area. Fire was very active with aggressive surface fire in multiple locations. Single tree torching, some group torching and short uphill runs occurred during mid and late afternoon.

Firefighters expect active fire movement to continue into the evening due to poor humidity recovery and strong thermal belts. Very active to extreme fire behavior is expected as weather conditions become more favorable for large fire growth. Uphill runs with spotting will be possible with single and group torching likely. This fire behavior is expected along the southern flank of the fire.

That fire is currently 31 percent contained.

On the 26,000 acre Sunrise fire in Mineral County, the firefighters are contending with continued hot, dry weather, and expect active burning where ground fuels are abundant. Crews continue with burnouts, improving fire line, and mopping up.

According the Mineral County Sheriff's office, Trout creek road from Joe Magone's residence up will open back up Tuesday morning at 8 a.m.

It's also important to note that the area closure remains in affect from Cedar Cr to Quartz Creek. Most of these areas are in stage 1, but the area closure remain in affect. So if you encounter a blockade this would indicate a closure area. It is important for your safety to stay out of these areas. Only fire personnel, emergency personnel , people living within, and firefighters are allowed in these areas.

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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