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

Montana Wildfire Update For July 30, 2021

Montana Wildfire News

At 7:37 p.m. the Broadwater County Sheriff's Department expanded the evacuation orders due to the Woods Creek Fire east of Helena.

A Facebook post from the Sheriff's Department says: "mandatory evacuation for east of Hwy 284 everything Gravely Lane south through Dry Gulch. Ray creek area be on high alert."

Highway 284 from mile marker 26 to south of Duck Creek Road has been also been closed.

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s office has issued a pre-evacuation warning for additional areas near the South Yaak Fire burning 4 miles northwest of Troy.

The following areas are now under pre-evacuation warning:

  • Yaak River Road Hwy 508, from the Highway 2 intersection to the Sylvanite Work Center
  • Pine Creek Road 395, from the Yaak 508 intersection, north to Curly Horse Lane
  • All of Seventeen Mile Road 471

The Sheriff’s Office says residents should be making final preparations for the possible evacuation of these areas and deputies will start visiting each property in the pre-evacuation area to take resident information.

The South Yaak fire is burning 4,100 acres and is about 20% contained.

Cooler temperatures today made for moderate fire behavior for the Divide Complex fires, which include the American Fork Fire currently at 14,000 acres and 10% contained, and the Balsinger Fire, now at 8,000 acres. Both fires are burning in the Little Belt Mountains south of Great Falls.

Area closures due to the Divide Complex fires as of July 30, 2021.

A pre-evacuation order remains in place for those on Shields River Road. Another pre-evacuation notice is in effect for the Belt Creek Ranger Station to Monarch, and from west of Monarch to Pilgrim and Belt Creek. An evacuation of Belt Park is still in effect due to the Balsinger Fire and has expanded to cover more forest service land.

The 12,000-acre Woods Creek Fire east of Helena was active at its northwest corner near the Confederated Gulch area and the southeast corner near the Duck Creek area, according to Inciweb. The fire is uncontained. Area and trail closures are in effect.

The Harris Mountain Fire north of Helena is around 25,000 acres and is 13% contained, with minimal growth across the fire from yesterday. A community meeting will be held July 31 in Cascade to provide an in-person update.

Last weekend the Cascade County Sheriff's Office issued evacuation orders for about 60 residences; those orders remain in effect for all residents south of mile marker 7 on Adel Road, Cannon Lake Lane, Sheep Creek Road, Sheep Creek Lane and Austin Lane. A pre-evacuation notice was issued for Novak Creek Lane.

The Montana Red Cross evacuation center is located at the Cascade School. Families can also request Red Cross Services by calling 800-272-6668.

The Anderson Hill Fire that burned 750 acres in Granite and Powell counties one mile southeast of the Garnet Ghost Town is now 100% contained, according to the Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation. A final fire update from the DNRC says evacuation orders are being lifted after about 20 individuals were evacuated in Granite County. The Bureau of Land Management has re-opened the Garnet Ghost Town historic site, but some closures in the area remain in place for public safety. The cause of the fire is under investigation

New Fires

The National Interagency Fire Center or NIFC reports there were 13 new fire starts in Montana on Thursday, prompting moderate initial attacks by federal, state and local firefighters. Just over half of those fires were contained or controlled by Thursday night.

The two largest new fire starts are the 42 acre Lodge Grass Dump Fire burning dump debris, and the 36 acre Smoke 390 Fire burning grass and sagebrush, both in Big Horn County. The Lodge Grass Dump Fire was contained as of Thursday night.

NIFC reports there are 33 uncontained large fires and 36 active fires in total covering nearly 468,000 acres in the Northern Rockies. That includes Montana, North Idaho, North Dakota and parts of South Dakota and Wyoming.

The National Interagency Situation Reporting Program identifies 72% of the current fires in Montana as human-caused. The rest are lightning-caused.

Montana Disaster and Emergency Services reports 46 of the state’s 56 counties have a Stage-1 or Stage-2 fire restrictions in effect.

Both the Northern Rockies and national fire preparedness levels are at level 5, the highest level.

Timberland Closures

More than 700,000 acres of private timberlands in northwest Montana are closing to public access and recreation over concerns of high fire danger. The latest closures were announced Friday.

Five private timberlands joined Stimson Lumber Company in closing access to their land. They include Green Diamond Resource Company, SPP Montana, Flathead Ridge Ranch, MKH Montana, and F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber.

Montana, Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Dillon Tabish says the private timberlands are popular for recreationalists and make up about one-third of the northwest Montana region.

“But when the conditions are like they are right now, it’s very appropriate to close these lands to public access and reduce any risk of wildland fire right now.”

The restrictions include firewood cutting, non-motorized use and walk-in use.

The closures take effect Monday and will remain in place until further notice when there is less fire danger.

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  • Strong winds have pushed the 9,500-acre American Fork Fire west, leading to pre-evacuation warnings for the Shields River and Smith Creek communities. Fire Operations Section Chief Shawn Nagle says residents should consider evacuating even though it’s not mandatory.