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

Montana Wildfire Update For July 13, 2021

Montana Wildfire News

Updated July 13, 2021 6:13 p.m.

Burnt Peak Fire

Kootenai National Forest fire officials say a pre-evacuation notice is in place for North Fork Keeler residents due to the Burnt Peak Fire burning over 900 acres southwest of Troy.

Officials say the fire is now within two miles of structures and heavy equipment is being used to improve access for firefighters.

Nearly 100 fire personnel are working the fire about nine miles southwest of Troy, which was sparked by lightning on July 7. Scattered thunderstorms are in the forecast this evening, but are expected to bring gusty winds and little to no precipitation to the area.

A public meeting is scheduled at the Kootenai National Forest Troy Ranger District office at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Missoula Area Fire

Missoula Rural Fire responded to a fire in the vicinity of Cochise Drive and Highway 93 Tuesday evening. Evacuation warnings were issued for those living on Cochise Drive, Alta View Road and Dead Man Gulch Road, but were lifted around 6 p.m.

MY Complex Fire

Another evacuation notice for the MY Complex Fire in Musselshell and Yellowstone counties lifted Tuesday.

The Musselshell County Disaster and Emergency Services reports the evacuation notice for Queen’s Point Road in Musselshell County has been lifted. On Monday the county lifted the evacuation notice for Harvey Road, Melstone-Custer Road and Alkali Creek Road.

The MY Complex consists of three wildfires including the Peterson Fire, about 12 miles south of Melstone in Musselshell County, the Western Road Fire, 7 miles southeast of Roundup, and the Musselshell Trail Road Fire, 15 miles northwest of Custer in Yellowstone County.

The nearly 28,000-acre MY Complex fire is 60% contained as of Tuesday morning and has cost $1.5 million to fight.

County DES Facebook post reports firefighters will continue construction of containment lines around the perimeter of the Peterson Fire, as engines, hand crews and heavy equipment secure existing containment on the north and east sides of the fire.

The Western Road and Musselshell Trail Road fires are showing minimal fire activity. Firefighting resources will continue to patrol and monitor the fires and be available for initial attack of any new fire starts in the MY Complex area.

Ellis Fire/Smith River

State officials are discouraging any floating on the Smith River due to low water flows and the Ellis Fire burning more than 800 acres in Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks' staff announced their safety concerns due to the fire and low flows Tuesday.

On Sunday, the Meagher County Sheriff office announced a pre-evacuation notice for the Smith River corridor from Camp Baker to the Confluence of Blacktail Creek.

Alder Creek Fire

A pre-evacuation notice remains in place for Wise River residents west of the scenic byway south of Highway 43 in Beaverhead County. The Alder Creek fire is burning more than 1,300 acres in the area. County Sheriff Paul Craft tells Montana Public Radio 30-40 residences are impacted by the pre-evacuation notice, which was issued over the weekend. The cause of the fire is unknown.

Western Montana Fire Danger

Fire danger across much of western Montana has reached peak or near peak levels. Fire restrictions are present across much of the region.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Division of Fire raised the fire danger on the Flathead Indian Reservation to the highest level Monday. Fire danger is now considered “extreme.” Fire management specialist C.T. Camel says hot and dry conditions like this typically wouldn’t be present until late July.

“We’re two to three weeks ahead of schedule of a normal year,” he says.

He says so far the reservation has been lucky to see just one wildfire over 100 acres. Camel says the division of fire is encouraging everyone to be extremely careful while recreating and driving along highways on the reservation and says more fire restrictions could be imminent.

“We’re leaning toward that way because all the resources are tapped in this region,” Camel says.

The Kootenai National Forest also bumped up fire danger to extreme Tuesday and the Bitterroot National Forest did the same Monday. Extreme fire danger is also present in the Missoula, Seeley and Ninemile ranger districts of the Lolo National Forest. Fire danger across nearly all of the remaining national forests in western Montana is very high. Stage one fire restrictions are also in place for many counties.

Sanders County will move to Stage-2 restrictions Saturday.

New Starts

The Northern Rockies Coordination Center reports 10 new fire starts in Montana on Monday launched light initial attacks by federal, state or local firefighting resources. Most of the fire starts were listed as less than an acre in size, while the Buck and Elevator fires on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Roosevelt County in northeast Montana were 66 acres each. Fire officials declared two starts out on Monday, one contained and one controlled.

Of the fires currently burning in Montana as of Monday, 79% are human caused and 21% are caused by lightning strikes.

The Northern Rockies is currently at fire preparedness level 5, the highest level, because of the high fire activity in the region and the significant commitment of firefighting resources. The national fire preparedness level is 4.

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