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

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 1, 2019

Updated 5:19 p.m., August 1, 2019

Lightning near the south end of the Bitterroot National Forest Wednesday night has sparked a one-tenth acre fire west of Hamilton in the Canyon Creek drainage next to Blodgett Canyon.

Forest Service spokesperson Tod McKay says a few firefighters have been working on the blaze near Barley Creek this afternoon; helicopters have also made water bucket drops.

And the one-tenth acre North Lost Fire started Wednesday also continues to burn a mile southwest of Camas Creek in the North Fork of the Lost Horse Drainage.

McKay says officials feel good about both fires, but are concerned by Friday’s weather forecast and red flag warning.

“It includes scattered dry thunderstorms, breezy westerly winds, dry lightning and the potential for gusty outflow winds up to 50 mph,” McKay said. “So with all the lightning we've had and that forecast for tomorrow, obviously the next couple of days will be pretty critical with any holdover lightning fires that can kick up and of course these two that we’re working on suppressing right now.”

McKay says firefighters have responded to 37 lightning-caused and 11 human-caused fires in the Bitterroot this summer. None have grown larger than an acre.

Updated at 4:20 p.m., August 1, 2019

Eight new fire starts were reported north of Helena today, while evacuation orders were lifted for the the North Hills Fire, the largest fire burning in the area.

More than half a dozen starts were reported after thunder storms rolled into the area north of Helena Wednesday night, that’s according to the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

Crystal Beckman, with DNRC, says of the eight new starts three have been contained and the remaining five are very small and being attacked by two helicopters and at least eight engines. None of the fires, located southeast of Wolf Creek and north of Craig, are threatening any structures.

The Nevada Mountain Fire was reported just before noon Thursday, and is burning around 50 acres west of Canyon Creek. Two hotshot crews and a Very Large Air Tanker are responding to the fire.

A community meeting about the lightning caused fire is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the Canyon Creek Volunteer Fire Department.

According to information provided by the Helena - Lewis and Clark National Forest, no structures are threatened by that fire at this time.

At noon Thursday, the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's office lifted the remaining evacuation order for the North Hills fire, which has been burning since last Friday.

Erin Vang was among the evacuates that was ordered to leave her home Saturday.

“I was overjoyed to see my house,” Vang said. “It was a little over a year and a half ago that I bought the house and drove up to it for the first time, as the new owner of the house. And you kind of think that that is going to be the happiest time you ever are driving up to a house, the first day that you own it. But actually the day that you drive home after an evacuation in which there was a good chance it was going to be gone.”

The North Hills Fire is burning around 4,900 acres and at last report Thursday afternoon was 50 percent contained.

Updated 3:09 p.m., August 1, 2019

The Nevada Mountain Fire was reported at about 11:30 a.m. today. It was ignited by lightning that was part of a thunderstorm that came over the area last night. Two Hotshot Crews and multiple aircraft, including the Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT), are working to completely suppress the fire.  There is going to be a public meeting tonight It at the Canyon Creek Volunteer Fire Department 6:30 p.m.

Montana authorities say a the North Hills Fire burning north of Helena is no longer threatening homes and all evacuation orders are being lifted.

Lewis and Clark County sheriff's officials said today all residents will be allowed home in the afternoon. The roads to public areas, including Black Sandy State Park and the White Sandy campground, are expected to re-open by the evening.

Some residents were allowed home on Wednesday as fire crews began to contain the fire that began last Friday. The cause is under investigation.

The evacuation orders included about 400 homes.

The fire had burned 7.5 square miles and was 50 percent contained as of Thursday morning.

Areas closed by the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will remain closed to the public until further notice.

Montana State Parks announced today that Black Sandy State Park, near Helena, MT will re-open for public access on Saturday, August 3, 2019.

For more information about Black Sandy State Park visit:

The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation announced six new wildfire starts today. The fires north of Helena and in the Wolf Creek area were likely started by lightning Wednesday evening. They were reported around 8:30 that evening. DNRC engines are investigating the blazes.Additional resources are on standby in the area and a fixed-wing aircraft is patrolling the area for additional fires.

Here's today's update from managers on the Beeskove Fire:

"A ridge of high pressure has been over the fire area and will remain today resulting in terrain-driven wind conditions, warm temperatures, and poor moisture recovery overnight. Additionally, there is a predicted dry cool front Friday which is expected to result in erratic winds and possible lightning. These persistent, predicted conditions are expected to result in a critical fire weather day on Friday.

“Favorable weather conditions continued to minimize fire behavior over the last two days. An infrared flight overnight updated the acres to 232. Containment remains 0% and no structures are threatened at this time.

“Firefighters continued to take advantage of the conditions and improved indirect lines constructed on the west and southwest sides of the fire. The size and location of the fire in steep rugged terrain continues to limit the opportunity for ground forces to engage the fire directly. Due to the lack of growth, a lack of opportunities to engage ground resources on the fire’s edge persist due to the steep, rugged terrain the fire is located in. Helicopters remain available to support fire crews to slow the fire’s growth.

“Today, firefighters will continue to improve the indirect lines on the west and southwest corners of the fire as well as scout potential access and line locations to the south and east of the fire’s current location. Emphasis will be placed on a route to tie the fireline into the Marshall Woods Prescribed Fire from earlier this spring and the 2011 Riverside fire scar.

Currently, there are 193 personnel assigned to the fire. Four Hotshot crews, two Type II crews, and six helicopters (three Type 1, two Type 2, and one Type 3) are working to contain the fire under a full suppression strategy. Additionally, heavy equipment operators and equipment will be arriving starting today.

The public can expect to see an uptick in traffic on Rattlesnake Drive and in Bonner during the morning and afternoon when firefighters and heavy equipment are driving to the staging areas to begin operations. The area closure remains in place for the Rattlesnake Recreation Area.The public should pay close attention to daily updates on closures and increased traffic near the recreation area as the weekend approaches.”

Firefighters west of Kalispell are trying to prevent the 52-acre Tornilla Creek Fire near Lower Thompson Lake from growing. The wildfire was under 10 acres when it was detected Tuesday evening and grew to its current size. Five helicopters and air support from the Forest service doused the fire with water Wednesday and ground crews were able to establish a fire line. No structures are threatened at this time and no evacuations have been ordered. Firefighters are expected to continue laying house around the perimeter Thursday to prevent the blaze from growing. Temperatures over the next few days are expected to be in the 90s and no rain is expected.

Firefighters on the Flathead Indian Reservation are beginning to mop up the Moss Ranch Fire, which was deemed 100 percent contained. The fire burned over 5,000 acres. Crews will continue to patrol the fire line and two roads closed by the blaze will reopen Friday. Little Bitterroot Road on the northwest edge of the fire will remain closed.

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