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

Montana Wildfire Update For August 13, 2020

Montana Wildfire News

The Bear Creek Fire near Lemhi, ID was mapped last night, doubling the size estimate to nearly 4,000 acres and zero percent contained. The fire is sending smoke across southwest and central Montana. Officials expect extreme fire behavior to continue today.

Bureau of Land Management lands southeast of Salmon along the Montana state line are closed, as is a section of the Continental Divide Trail.

Map of area closures in effect due to the Bear Creek Fire.
Credit Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest
Area closures in effect due to the Bear Creek Fire.

A Type 2 Incident Management Team took command of the fire this morning. Eight helicopters, three engines and 139 people are assigned to the fire, with scoopers and air tankers available as needed. Crews built new containment line today around the east side of the fire and are hoping to use existing road systems to contain the fire.

The fire is burning in timber and heavy fuels, which are expected to continue drying out with forecasted low relative humidity and high wind gusts. An update to Inciweb says the area where the fire is burning has poor access and a lack of water around the fire perimeter, which is listed as a special concern.

Temporary closures are in effect due to the fire. The Continental Divide Trail (CDT) is closed from Lemhi Pass to Bannock Pass. Lemhi Pass Road is closed from Brenner Lane to the Idaho border. All BLM lands south of Lemhi Pass Road, west of U.S. Highway 324, and east of the Continental Divide along the Montana Stateline are closed.

Crews working the Fields Gulch Fire burning six miles south of Lincoln have the 5-acre fire 50 percent contained. A local Type 4 Incident Management Team took command of the fire this morning. Initial attack crews spent Wednesday improving firelines and extinguishing hot spots using three engines and a hose lay system.

The Custer County Fire Department is mopping up a grass fire that started along Interstate 94 today. A Facebook post from the department says local ranchers, ground equipment and a state helicopter stopped the fire’s forward progress, though it destroyed several bales of hay.

Custer County firefighters say this is a good reminder that cigarette butts and chains dragging along pavement are enough to spark a fire.

Lightning sparked the 7-Mile Flat Fire northwest of Custer last night. The 100-acre wind driven fire was contained by 18 local engines and tenders, along with 2 Bureau of Land Management engines. Additional engines, a water tender and 20-man hand crew worked to further secure fire lines today against heat and winds, according to Yellowstone County Emergency Services. Smoke may be visible along Interstate 94.

The Magpie Rock Fire burning west of Dixon was reported as 100 percent contained. The, which was first reported July 27 burned over 3,500 acres.

Statewide, interagency dispatches report more than two dozen fire starts in the past day ranging from a tenth of an acre to hundreds of acres. County and federal responders have been able to contain and even put out many of the smaller starts within hours.

The National Weather Service in Great Falls says "Little to no rain is expected across the Northern Rockies over the next 7-days outside of a few isolated showers and thunderstorms. Conditions are and will continue to remain dry."

Isolated, severe thunderstorms are possible today along the I-94 corridor from Hysham to the North Dakota state line, and south down to Broadus. Fire starts from lightning strikes are more likely as the region continues to dry out.

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Nicky is MTPR's Flathead-area reporter.
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