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

Montana Wildfire Update For June 18, 2021

Montana Wildfire News

Crooked Creek Fire

Update 06/18/21, 5 p.m.

The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for Saturday afternoon and night in south central and southeast Montana, including the area of the Crooked Creek Fire, which today held at 5,100 acres with no containment.

The Crooked Creek Fire is located on lands managed by the Custer Gallatin National Forest, 25 miles east of Bridger in the Pryor Mountains near the southern border of the Crow Reservation. The low humidity, wind gusts up to 35 miles per hour from an advancing cold front and highs in the upper 80s F can push the fire lines with the prevailing winds.

Fire Information Officer Al Nash in a morning update said the fire is showing moderate activity with group torching and flanking.

The Carbon County Sheriff’s Office earlier this week issued a pre-evacuation warning for the 25 residents in the Sage Creek area.

Nash says the Federal Aviation Administration has a temporary flight restriction over the Crooked Creek Fire area to provide a safe environment so firefighting aircraft may operate in the area. Crews will be working to protect power lines and a wind farm, as well as some natural attractions.

Both the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have issued closure orders for the Crooked Creek fire area in the northeast section of the Custer National Forest Beartooth Ranger District. 

The BLM has implemented Stage 1 fire restrictions on BLM-managed lands in Carbon County, Montana. Under Stage-1 restrictions, campfires are limited to developed campsites with established fire pits. Smoking is limited to enclosed vehicles, buildings, developed recreation sites, or areas of 3 feet in diameter cleared of all flammable materials. Violators face fines of up to $10,000 and six months imprisonment, and can be held liable for damages and suppression costs for starting a fire.

Robertson Draw Fire

Update  6/18/21, 5 p.m.

The Robertson Draw Fire burning south of Red Lodge grew minimally Thursday to 24,500 acres. According to an Inciweb update Friday morning, the fire remains zero percent contained. 

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks asks the public to avoid boating on Cooney Reservoir north of Red Lodge, as scoop planes will be using it for firefighting efforts. Camping and day use are permitted.

Evacuation orders were downgraded to warning status Thursday night for the areas of North and South Grove Creek, Gold Creek, Ruby Creek, and Robertson Draw east to Highway 72, though residents are advised to remain vigilant.

Fire spokespeople say Highways 308, 212 and 72 are open, while roads under evacuation warning status remain closed to public use. Those include North and South Grove Creek Road, Gold Creek Road, Ruby Creek Road, Meeteetse Trail and Robertson Draw Road.

Northern Rockies Coordination Center says almost $2 million has been spent on firefighting efforts. There are currently more than 200 personnel on scene according to Inciweb.

Carbon, Yellowstone and Stillwater county commissioners have declared stage I fire restrictions, which triggers a ban on campfires and other open flames. 

Gov. Greg Gianforte Friday issued an executive order that lifts hours of service requirements for commercial trucks so that they can deliver fuel to support fire suppression efforts.

Deep Creek Canyon Fire

Update 06/18/21, 5:25 p.m.

This weekend’s forecast of cooling weather and rain may assist crews fighting the Deep Creek Fire southeast of Helena. The fire has held steady at roughly 4,600 acres since Thursday.

Fire spokesperson Margie Ferrucci says the cold front could keep the fire from spreading, including along the fire’s steep northern perimeter where crews are having trouble accessing spot fires.

“More moisture in the air could definitely help.”

Ferrucci says a crew separate from firefighting teams is drafting plans and beginning to lay water hose around the evacuated Grassy Mountain subdivision in case the fire gets closer.

The Northern Rockies Coordination Center says the fire has burned seven structures, but more information about their size wasn’t available. 

The fire has cost $1.3 million to fight so far, according to a news release. Ferrucci didn’t know whether that figure includes a state-owned helicopter that crash landed near the fire Tuesday.

Buffalo Pasture Fire

Update 06/18/21, 5:30 p.m.

Additional resources have arrived to assist Bureau of Indian Affairs Crow Agency firefighters working the 328 acre Buffalo Pasture Fire 10 miles southwest of Fort Smith. The fire is burning in the canyon between Little Bull Elk Ridge and the buffalo pasture on the Crow Reservation.

BIA Fire Information Officer Jon Kohn says a Type 2 crew from Oregon and the Mad River hotshot crew from northern California are helping Crow fire crews build fire lines on ridges of the Little Bull Elk Canyon. 

Kohn says the fire expanded rapidly after igniting on Tuesday because of extreme, record setting dry heat.

The fire is zero percent contained.

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