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

Montana Wildfire Update For August 26, 2020

Montana Wildfire News

Air Quality is listed as “Moderate” and “Good” across western Montana this afternoon. That’s according to the Department of Environmental Quality. Smoke continues to blow into the state from massive wildfires burning in California. Fires burning in Idaho and Montana are also adding to the haze, according to modeling on the AIRPACT Map from Washington State University.

According to the Lolo National Forest, rain Tuesday afternoon stunted new growth on the 2,000 acre Cinnabar Fire burning 10 miles east of Stevensville and 15 miles south of I-19 in the Rock Creek drainage. Officials say smoke and visibility is making firefighters' work more difficult, including aerial observations to measure the fire’s size. The entire Welcome Creek Wilderness along with some adjacent trails and roads remain closed because of the fire.

The Long Gulch Fire burning in an active logging unit within the 7 Mag timber sale is now 10 acres. Earlier this week a timber processor and several log decks were damaged in the fire. Lolo National Forest spokesperson Kate Jerman says the fire was 15 percent contained this morning and expected to be 50 percent contained tonight.

The Bear Creek Fire continues to burn more than 11,500 acres in the Lemhi Pass area 29 miles East of Salmon Idaho. The fire is 70 percent contained. An update provided by the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest says fire behavior was expected to be quiet today.

Air quality in eastern Montana is rated “moderate” this afternoon. That means unusually sensitive people should consider limiting prolonged outdoor exertion. Smoke from fires burning in California and more locally in the region led to “unhealthy” air quality levels for brief periods earlier this week around southeastern Montana.

Firefighters gained ground on the Bradley Creek Fire northeast of Big Sky today, drawing containment around 75 percent of the 1,870 acre fire. Incident Commander David Hamilton with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation County Assist Team and his trainee, Patrick Lonergan, are working to return management of the fire back to Madison County. The fire did not grow yesterday and the area saw a bit of precipitation. Crews spent today mopping up along the fire’s edge and around structures, along with beginning to repair fire lines. Ninety-five people, ten engines and two water tenders have been working the fire burning in grass, sagebrush and juniper that started Sunday. The cause remains unknown.

The Lone Star Fire in Yellowstone National Park grew nearly 60 acres yesterday to a total 820 acres. The lightning-caused blaze had a lazy morning but picked up in the afternoon as temperatures rose and winds grew gusty. Small spot fires popped up as far as a half mile out from the fire’s active perimeter. Thirty-eight people are assigned to the fire burning in lodgepole, spruce and fir. Additional resources have been requested. The fire is growing on its southwest and northeast edges, pushing east away from the Old Faithful area toward Grand Loop Road. The road remains closed between Old Faithful and West Thumb Junction due to smoke and increased fire equipment traffic. Many trails and campsites around Shoshone Lake and Lone Star Geyser are also closed, though the Old Faithful area is open.

The emerging Flat Creek Fire burning 18 miles northeast of Geraldine in Chouteau County was discovered this afternoon. It’s estimated to be burning 100 acres, according to the Lewistown Interagency Dispatch Center.

The Daily Fire that started yesterday on the Custer Gallatin National Forest 10 miles east of Ashland has been remeasured to 1,498 acres. Crews yesterday gained 79 percent containment on the fire burning in timber and tall grass. Seven structures are threatened by the fire but none have been lost. One hundred five people are assigned the fire under a Type 3 management team. So far firefighting costs on the Daily Fire total $157,500.

The Hill Fire 25 miles south of Glasgow held at 3,275 acres today. Crews grew containment lines around 90 percent of the fire. Six structures are threatened but none have been destroyed. The Bureau of Land Management is leading firefighting efforts on the blaze that started Friday. Twelve people are assigned to the fire under a Type 4 management team. That’s down from 98 yesterday. To date firefighting costs total $700,000.

A separate Hill Fire burning 115 acres 10 miles northwest of Lame Deer has been declared 100 percent contained. Bureau of Indian Affairs led the response. The fire that started Sunday threatened 30 structures and has cost $10,000.

The Sage Fire on the Fort Peck Reservation 10 miles north of Oswego was downgraded to about 2,500 acres today.

Bureau of Indian Affairs Fort Peck Agency is leading the response to the fire that is zero percent contained. Three personnel are assigned to the fire that started Monday and has cost $100,000 to date.

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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.
Nicky is MTPR's Flathead-area reporter.
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