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

Montana Wildfire Update For July 1, 2021

Montana Wildfire News

Updated 3:45 p.m.

Ranch Fire

Federal, state and local firefighters are working to contain a 2,100-acre coal seam-caused fire in Custer County in southeast Montana.

The Ranch Fire is one of three coal seam-caused wildfires burning in that region.

Custer County Fire Warden Bud Peterson says the Ranch Fire, 35 miles south of Miles City, was reported early Wednesday afternoon. It is burning in grass and dead and downed trees on the site of a previous burn.

Three helicopters, firefighters, engines and bulldozers working to secure containment lines around the fire.

The fire warden says they are slowly making progress but no word yet on containment.

Robertson Draw and Crooked Creek Fires

Fire crews continue to patrol the containment lines on the Robertson Draw and Crooked Creek Fires burning in the Custer Gallatin National Forest in south central Montana.

Fire officials say the region is seeing hot, dry weather going into the holiday weekend, and those conditions are likely to continue into the foreseeable future. The National Weather Service shows temperatures in the 80s and 90s in the Red Lodge area over the next few days.

Containment holds at 65% on the 30,000-acre Robertson Draw fire just south of Red Lodge in Carbon County. Operations section chief Mike Behrens on Wednesday evening said that crews will be prepared with firefighting resources as July Fourth approaches.

“Really the themes are wanting to, over the next five to seven days, get these fires in a good spot where they’re able to be handled more locally and be well prepared for any initial attack or new fires that might start in the area,” Behrens says.

Carbon County is entering stage 2 fire restrictions starting Friday, which triggers a ban on open flames or burns on private and public property. Carbon County commissioners say they do not have the authority to prohibit fireworks on private land.

Fire crews are patrolling the eastern and southern perimeters of the fire looking for hot spots or pockets of heat. Mop-up operations continue to secure these lines, and suppression repair efforts are ongoing.

The 4,000-acre Crooked Creek fire east of Bridger in the Pryor Mountains continues at 72% containment. Fire officials say crews are reinforcing containment lines using small controlled burns, and people can expect to see smoke in the area. 

Both fires have cost upwards of $12 million to date, according to the Northern Rockies Coordination Center.

Yellowstone National Park

Fire danger in Yellowstone National Park is now listed at very high, the second highest danger rating, and Stage 1 Fire Restrictions are now in place.

It’s hot and dry in Yellowstone. That’s the message park fire management officer John Cataldo gave during a Facebook Live event Thursday morning.

“Fires are going to start easily if we’re careless or if we get lightning. And we expect them to spread pretty readily under most conditions that we’ll have during the day here,” Cataldo says.

Cataldo says federal policy requires all human caused fire to be suppressed. So far this year there has only been one lightning-caused fire. It was quickly extinguished early in the season because of location.

“So we’re kind of in a posture currently of suppressing new fire starts, if we get any, because it’s going to be a long marathon of a summer.”

Yellowstone is under Stage 1 fire restrictions, prohibiting any backcountry wood campfires or smoking in the backcountry or on all trails. Campfires are permitted in designated fire rings in the 11 developed campgrounds in the park.

Cataldo says fireworks are banned in the park and on all federal land, including national forests and Bureau of Land Management land.

Park officials remind visitors that negligently starting a wildland fire may result in fines and or imprisonment. 

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