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

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 9, 2019

Today's forecast for Missoula from the National Weather Service
National Weather Service
Today's forecast for Missoula from the National Weather Service

Updated 7:46 p.m., August 9

Evacuations for the Horsefly Fire will be lifted at 8pm, tonight.

A crowd of around 50 people gathered in the Canyon Creek Volunteer Fire Department Friday evening cheered when Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton delivered the news.

Credit Corin Cates-Carney
Lewis and Clark Sheriff Leo Dutton tells evacuees of the Horsefly fire that they will be able to head home tonight, August 9, 2019.

“Remember there’s still active fire in there. You are on notice," Dutton said. “We feel confident, you going in there, you’ll be safe.”

Around 77 homes were ordered to evacuate soon after the Horsefly Fly was discovered, August 5. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

The Horsefly Fire is burning 1,335 acres east of Lincoln. U.S. Forest Service officials say they have the fire 25 percent contained.

Northern Rockies Incident Management Team 3 Commander Mike Almas says his crew will finish their work on the fire Monday, leaving a smaller local team of firefighters to continue the work.

With rain expected in the coming days, Almas says he does not expect the fire to make any big movements going forward.

A flash flood watch will be in effect Saturday afternoon and evening in portions of central and Montana, including the Horsefly Fire area.

Updated 5:14 p.m.

Firefighters on two of the biggest wildfires in western Montana report getting some benefit from wet weather in the last 24 hours.

Stefani Spencer is a spokesperson for the 1,335-acre Horsefly Fire 13 miles east of Lincoln.

“It’s not very active today because of the high humidity and the cooler temperatures and the little bit of rain we’ve been getting. So, it’s slowed it down quite a bit.”

But, she says:

“It hasn’t been a whole lot of moisture, and it’s important to remember that water alone will not put out the fire.”

On the 429-acre Beeskove Fire northeast of Missoula, crews still have their work cut out for them.

Team spokesman Chris Ziegler says the fire area is being hit with weather patterns of varying assistance.

“We’re in somewhat of an undulating cycle of moisture and warming and drying. The fire is definitely still there. No expectation whatsoever this will put the fire out. But it will probably just slow it down quite a bit until we see what the weather has in the next week or so.”

Rain this week is expected to culminate in Saturday thunderstorms.

Next week is expected to become dry again, however. Ziegler says that follows last week’s pattern, where weekend moisture laid down the Beeskove Fire, then hot temperatures re-emerged.

In the meantime, crews will watch for gusty winds over the weekend.

More wet weather is forecast for this weekend, especially tomorrow. The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch stretching from the northwest corner of Montana to Great Falls and back to Butte, all of the Bitterroot Valley and Missoula. That flash flood watch is for tomorrow from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Updated 11:03 a.m.

Managers on the 429 acre Beeskove Fire northeast of Missoula report, “making good progress along the south and east flanks while holding the west. There was not much growth in fire size. 

“Today (Fri. 8/9), heavy equipment will progress to the northeast improving fuel breaks in the Gold Creek area. Clearing work will also continue along the powerline corridor. Hotshot crews are building line to the southwest and installing and testing hoselays due south on an indirect line above the old West Riverside Fire scar.

“A structure assessment crew is documenting the defensibility of homes and other structures in the vicinity of the fire. Today they will be working in the Cambridge and Marshall Mountain areas. This assessment provides an opportunity to prepare for both this and future fires and complements the ‘Wildfire Adapted Missoula’ work that has been happening amongst cooperating fire agencies.

“Cooler, more humid conditions are expected this morning and early afternoon. There is the possibility late afternoon thunderstorms. Potential impacts associated with the storm are 20 mile-an-hour gusts and enough rainfall to make forest roads less drivable. Due to the continued presence of a slow moving, low-pressure system, lower temperatures and significant rainfall are predicted through Sunday. Some thunderstorms over the three-day period may have the potential for flash flooding, stronger winds and hail.”

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