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

Montana Wildfire Update for August 12, 2021

Montana Wildfire News

The roughly 165,000-acre Richard Spring Fire burning south of Colstrip across the Northern Cheyenne reservation is 0% contained as of Thursday afternoon. A previous update Wednesday listed the fire as 15% contained, but fire officials say that was an error.

According to InciWeb, evacuations are in place for Ashland, the North Tongue River, Highway 212, Rabbit Town, St. Labre campus and an Amish community along the Tongue River. Lame Deer was evacuated late Wednesday night, and according to the Rosebud County Sheriff's Office, the evacuation remained in effect early Thursday morning.

Pre-evacuation is in effect for Rosebud Creek, Greenleaf Creek and Cherry Creek.

A post on InciWeb says Highway 39 is open to limited traffic, and Highway 212 is open to local traffic only. The Rosebud County Sheriff’s Office says the road could close at any time with little notice. The sheriff’s office also says fire crews are working between Ashland and Lame Deer, and that section of Highway 212 remains closed.

Red Cross services and shelter are available in Crow Agency, Busby and Broadus, and the Colstrip Saddle Club is offering space for evacuees to keep their horses.

Tongue River Electric Cooperative says the public should be aware of downed, possibly active power lines and poles. The electric utility said Tuesday it may take 3 to 5 days for the utility to restore power.

The Northern Rockies Incident Management Team 3 took command of the fire early Thursday morning.

Jeni Garcin, spokeswoman for the Northern Rockies Team 3 handling the fire, says weather conditions are ripe for continued fire growth.

“It’s really dry out there. And so it’s all creating kind of a perfect storm for what we’re seeing,” Garcin says.

Garcin says temperatures are expected to rise in the coming days, humidity remains low and wind is pushing the fire over roads and fire containment lines.

InciWeb says the fire is burning in brush, short grass and timber with extreme behavior and fire runs driven by winds, and it may increase in the dry, hot weather. FEMA is directing money to firefighting efforts.

The Broadwater County Sheriff's Office Wednesday lifted mandatory evacuation orders. Pre-evacuation is still in place for Dry Gulch, North, Middle and South Ray Creek roads, Upper Cottonwood, North Fork and Log Cabin Road.

The West Lolo Complex Fire in Sanders County is 15% contained and is a little over 23,000 acres in size. The Sanders County sheriff announced Wednesday that homes in the Harlow area are back to pre-evacuation warning status. An evacuation order has been issued for houses in the Snider and Copper King areas of the Lower Thompson River. The National Guard is staffing a roadblock at the intersection of the ACM road and the County Road just southwest of Snider. Residents of Snider and Copper King will need passes to access their property. Passes can be obtained either at the roadblock or at the sheriff's office.

Richard Spring Fire

August 12, 2021 1:05 p.m.

Location: Southwest of Colstrip

Size: 165,425 acres

Containment: 0%

Evacuation orders and warnings: According to inciweb, evacuations are in place for Ashland, the North Tongue River, Highway 212, Rabbit Town, St. Labre campus and an Amish Community along the Tongue River. Lame Deer was evacuated late Wednesday night, and according to the Rosebud County Sheriff's Office, the evacuation remained in effect early Thursday morning.

Pre-evacuation is in effect for Rosebud Creek, Greenleaf Creek and Cherry Creek.

Red Cross services and shelter are available in Crow Agency, Busby and Broadus, and the Colstrip Saddle Club is offering space for evacuees to keep their horses.

Major closures: A post on inciweb says Highway 39 is open to limited traffic, and Highway 212 is open to local traffic only. The Rosebud County Sheriff’s Office says the road could close at any time with little notice. The sheriff’s office also says fire crews are working between Ashland and Lamedeer, and that section of Highway 212 remains closed.

Conditions: 

Cause: Undetermined

More fire information: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7794/

Meetings:

Destruction:

Cost: 

Christensen Fire

Updated August 12, 11:17 p.m. 

Location: 12 miles west of Wise River, located on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest

Size: 8,806 acres

Containment: 10%

Evacuation orders and warnings:

Major closures: Forest Closure Orders are in effect for the fire area, see Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest closures here https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/bdnf/alerts-notices

Highway 43 and Pioneer Byway remain open. Motorists are asked to slow down and be on the alert for firefighters, heavy smoke, and downed trees. Please check the Montana DOT Road Report website https://www.mdt.mt.gov/travinfomobile for current conditions.

Continental Divide Trail: Closed from Lemhi Pass north to Mussigbrod Creek.

Big Hole National Battlefield is closed until further notice. North and South VanHouten, Miner Lakes, Twin Lakes, May Creek and Divide Bridge Campgrounds are closed.

Forest Closure orders are in effect for all three fires.

Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF: https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/bdnf/alerts-notices

Salmon-Challis NF: https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/scnf/alerts-notices

Conditions: Thursday will be another warm and dry day. Winds will relax across the area, with mostly terrain driven upslope and upvalley flows dominating. At ridge tops, this will result in variable winds at times. Winds become northeast late in the day and into the overnight hours. These northeast winds will likely enhance downslope/downvalley flows for a period of time where drainages align. Ridge top winds will also become northeasterly during this period of time, with a brief increase for 3 to 6 hours heading into the Thursday night and early Friday morning.

Cause: Unknown

https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7702/

Black Mountain

Updated August 12, 11:02 a.m.

Location: 13 miles south of Jackson, MT and east of Skinner Lake and Skinner Meadows in both the Dillon and Wisdom Ranger Districts.

Size: 1,042

Containment: 75%

Evacuation orders and warnings: 

Stage 1 evacuation on Highway 43 from Mile Marker 35 to the County Line at Mile Marker 41.5. This includes the residents of Doolittle Creek Road and North Doolittle Creek Road. Southside of Highway 43 from Alder Creek Road to Dickie Bridge. Westside of the Scenic Byway from the Wisdom Airport to Harriette Lou Road.

All evacuation status removed in Alder Creek drainage and Southside of Highway 43 from Alder Creek Road to Mile Marker 62.

Lemhi County Sheriff has contacted residences in threatened areas on the west side of the Trail Creek Fire in Idaho and placed in “Set” evacuation status. Info: 208-756-8980.

Major closures: Hwy 43 and Pioneer Byway remain open. Motorists are asked to slow down and be on the alert for firefighters, heavy smoke, and downed trees. Please check the Montana DOT Road Report website MDT.MT.gov/travinfomobile for current conditions.

Continental Divide Trail: Closed from Lemhi Pass north to Mussigbrod Creek.

Big Hole National Battlefield is closed until further notice. North and South VanHouten, Miner Lakes, Twin Lakes, May Creek and Divide Bridge Campgrounds are closed. Forest Closure orders are in effect for all three fires.

Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF: https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/bdnf/alerts-notices

Salmon-Challis NF: https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/scnf/alerts-notices.

Conditions: Today’s temperatures will be 75 to 85 with a minimum relative humidity between 18 to 25 percent and Northwest winds at 8 to 10 mph with gusts of 15 to 20mph. An evening wind shift from the North and Northeast could affect fire behavior on South-facing slopes. There is a predicted drying trend through the weekend with increasing temperatures and decreasing humidity.

Cause: Lightning

More fire information: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7691/

Alder Creek Fire

Updated August 12, 11:04 a.m.

Location: About 7 miles west of Wise River in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.

Size: 11,999 acres

Containment: 10%

Evacuation orders and warnings: 

Stage 1 evacuation Highway 43 from Mile Marker 35 to the County Line at Mile Marker 41.5. This includes the residents of Doolittle Creek Road and North Doolittle Creek Road.

South side of Highway 43 from Alder Creek Road to Dickie Bridge.

West side of the Scenic Byway from the Wisdom Airport to Harriette Lou Road.

All evacuation orders were removed in Alder Creek drainage and Southside of Highway 43 from Alder Creek Road to Mile Marker 62.

Lemhi County Sheriff has contacted residences in threatened areas on the west side of the Trail Creek Fire in Idaho and placed in “Set” evacuation status. Info: 208-756-8980.

Major closures: Closures for the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest here.

Highway 43 and Pioneer Byway remain open. Motorists are asked to slow down and be on the alert for firefighters, heavy smoke, and downed trees. Please check the Montana DOT Road Report website https://www.mdt.mt.gov/travinfomobile for current conditions.

Continental Divide Trail: Closed from Lemhi Pass north to Mussigbrod Creek.

Big Hole National Battlefield is closed until further notice.

North and South VanHouten, Miner Lakes, Twin Lakes, May Creek and Divide Bridge Campgrounds are closed.

Forest Closure orders are in effect for all three fires.

Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF: https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/bdnf/alerts-notices

Salmon-Challis NF: https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/scnf/alerts-notices

Conditions: Today’s temperatures will be 75 to 85 with a minimum relative humidity between 18 to 25 percent and Northwest winds at 8 to 10 mph with gusts of 15 to 20mph. An evening wind shift from the North and Northeast could affect fire behavior on South-facing slopes. There is a predicted drying trend through the weekend with increasing temperatures and decreasing humidity.

Cause: Unknown

More fire information: https://www.facebook.com/AlderCreekandTrailCreekFires

https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7641/

Trail Creek Fire

Updated August 12, 8:48 a.m.

Location: 20 miles West of Wisdom, MT on HWY 43

Size: 36,076 acres

Containment: 26%

Evacuation orders and warnings: Stage 1 evacuation on Highway 43 from Mile Marker 35 to the County Line at Mile Marker 41.5. This includes the residents of Doolittle Creek Road and North Doolittle Creek Road. Southside of Highway 43 from Alder Creek Road to Dickie Bridge. Westside of the Scenic Byway from the Wisdom Airport to Harriette Lou Road.

All evacuation status removed in Alder Creek drainage and Southside of Highway 43 from Alder Creek Road to Mile Marker 62.

Lemhi County Sheriff has contacted residences in threatened areas on the west side of the Trail Creek Fire in Idaho and placed in “Set” evacuation status. Info: 208-756-8980.

Major closures: Hwy 43 and Pioneer Byway remain open. Motorists are asked to slow down and be on the alert for firefighters, heavy smoke, and downed trees. Please check the Montana DOT Road Report website MDT.MT.gov/travinfomobile for current conditions.

Continental Divide Trail: Closed from Lemhi Pass north to Mussigbrod Creek.

Big Hole National Battlefield is closed until further notice. North and South VanHouten, Miner Lakes, Twin Lakes, May Creek and Divide Bridge Campgrounds are closed.

Forest Closure orders are in effect for all three fires.

Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF: https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/bdnf/alerts-notices

Salmon-Challis NF: https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/scnf/alerts-notices

Conditions: Today’s temperatures will be 75 to 85 with a minimum relative humidity between 18 to 25 percent and Northwest winds at 8 to 10 mph with gusts of 15 to 20mph. An evening wind shift from the North and Northeast could affect fire behavior on South-facing slopes. There is a predicted drying trend through the weekend with increasing temperatures and decreasing humidity.

Cause: Lightning

More fire information: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7634/

Meetings:

Destruction:

Cost:

Harris Mountain Fire

Updated August 12, 8:03 a.m.

Location: 10 miles southeast of Cascade

Size: 31,591 acres

Containment: 52%

Evacuation orders and warnings: As of August 9, the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office rescinded all evacuation orders and pre-evacuation notices related to the Harris Mountain Fire in Cascade County.

Cause: Lightning

Conditions: Partly cloudy with temperatures in the low 80s with northeast winds 13-18 mph and gusts up 23 mph in the morning decreasing to 8 to 12 mph by noon.

Meetings: A final community meeting will be on Friday, August 13 at 10 a.m., Wedsworth Hall, 13 Front Street South, Cascade, MT

More Fire Information: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/article/7719/63395/

Woods Creek

Updated August 12, 10:08 a.m.

Location: 16 miles NE of Townsend, MT, near Boulder Lakes in the Big Belt Mountains.

Size: 48,709 acres

Containment: 5%

Evacuation orders and warnings: As of August 9, Park Co Sheriff’s Office has moved Shields River Road residents back to pre-evacuation status. Meager County has done the same with the Smith Creek area. This is due to favorable weather and fire behavior but could change as needed. The county roads in the area are open; however, there are still closures in the forest.

Conditions: Mostly clear skies expected through the day. There were good relative humidity recoveries last night, and similar values are forecast for tonight. Daytime RH values are expected to drop into the mid to low 20's today. Winds picked up to moderate/strong levels out of the west this morning, and are expected to turn from the northwest later this afternoon. Winds will diminish tonight with light north to northeast winds expected Thursday with slightly cooler temperatures and RH values in the upper 20's for the afternoon.

More fire information: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7649/

Balsinger Fire

Updated August 12, 10:01 a.m.

Location: Balsinger West of Neihart, MT. Ellis Fire 20 miles NW of White Sulphur Springs.

Size: 9,834 acres

Containment: 45%

Evacuation orders and warnings: An evacuation order for Belt Park, issued by the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office, remains in place.

A pre-evacuation order was issued for the area from the Belt Creek Ranger Station to Monarch and from west of Monarch to the confluence of Pilgrim Creek and Belt Creek.

Major Closures: All National Forest Systems lands, including all roads and trails within the boundary of the following area, except as stated below, are closed

Conditions: Mostly clear skies expected through the day. There were good relative humidity recoveries last night on all the fires, and similar values are forecast for tonight. Daytime RH values are expected to drop into the mid to low 20's today. Winds picked up to moderate/strong levels out of the west this morning, and are expected to turn from the northwest later this afternoon. Winds will diminish tonight with light north to northeast winds expected Thursday with slightly cooler temperatures and RH values in the upper 20's for the afternoon.

Cause: lightning

More fire information: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/article/7624/63332/

Meetings:

American Fork Fire

Updated August 12, 9:00 a.m. 

Acreage: 19,599

Containment: 10%

Start date: July 17, 2021

Cause: Lightning

Personnel: 34

Location: 24 miles southwest of Harlowton, Montana.

Conditions: 

Evacuation and Warnings: As of August 9, Park Co Sheriff’s Office has moved Shields River Road residents back to pre-evacuation status. Meager County has done the same with the Smith Creek area. This is due to favorable weather and fire behavior but could change as needed. The county roads in the area are open; however, there are still closures in the forest.

More Information: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7681/

Burnt Peak

Updated August 12, 11:46 a.m. 

Location: Approx 9 miles southwest of Troy, MT

Size: 3,583 acres

Containment: 46%

Evacuation orders and warnings: Residences in North Fork Keeler Creek are on pre-evacuation notice. All residents should be ready to leave if evacuations are necessary.

Major Closures:

Conditions: A few clouds formed midday around the region, but overall we experienced abundant sun and above normal temperatures around

the incident. Some breezy westerly winds picked up in the afternoon on the higher ridgelines, with more channeled winds in the predominant drainages. Winds shift to the east overnight and remain in that direction through Friday, but overall magnitudes should remain low. Temperatures continue to rise higher each day

peaking on Saturday before a pattern change moves in early next week. Breezy winds, cooler temperatures and some increased

humidity are all expected. Chances for precipitation will also be on the rise as a Pacific weather system drops into the region.

Cause: Lightning

More Fire Information: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7696/

https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/article/7619/63400/

South Yaak Fire

Updated: August 12, 7:14 a.m.

Location: 4 miles northwest of Troy, Montana.

Size: 10,498

Containment: 44%

Evacuation orders and warnings: Residences on East Side Road, Kilbrennan Lake Road, 17 Mile Creek, and Sylvanite are on pre-evacuation notice. All residents should be ready to leave if evacuations are necessary.

Major closures: As of August 8, 2021, Closure Order D04-076-S-21 is now in effect on the Three Rivers Ranger District for the Callahan Creek Road 427 and Callahan Historic Trail 153. The restriction is in place for public safety due to fire management activities related to the Burnt Peak Fire: www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd938562.pdf

Conditions: A few clouds formed midday around the region, but overall we experienced abundant sun and above normal temperatures around

the incident. Some breezy westerly winds picked up in the afternoon on the higher ridgelines, with more channeled winds in the predominant drainages. Winds shift to the east overnight and remain in that direction through Friday, but overall magnitudes

should remain low. Temperatures continue to rise higher each day

peaking on Saturday before a pattern change moves in early next week. Breezy winds, cooler temperatures and some increased

humidity are all expected. Chances for precipitation will also be on the rise as a Pacific weather system drops into the region.

Cause: Lightning

More Fire Information: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7696/

Boulder 2700

Updated August 12, 7:47 a.m.

Location: In the Mission Mountains east of Flathead Lake, and eight miles east of Polson, MT

Size: 2,072 Acres

Containment: 36%

Evacuation orders and warnings:  Beginning this morning, Finley Point and the area south of Mahood Lane and Ski Doo Creek are moving to stage 1 (“Ready”)of the “Ready-Set-Go” plan for wildfire evacuations. Residents in this area should remain prepared. Yesterday, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office lifted the evacuation stage 3 (“GO”) status for property owners along Highway 35 from mile markers 9 to 11. Residents in this area transitioned to stage 2 (“SET”) and should be prepared to evacuate if the fire activity increases.

Major closures: Highway 35 will reopen to local traffic. The speed limit is reduced to 35 mph from mile markers 6 to 13 for public and firefighter safety.

Drivers need to be aware of existing hazards in the fire area including suppression and tree felling activities, rolling rocks and debris, smoke, firefighter engines and crew vehicles, aircraft, and utility vehicles. Do not stop in the fire area due to all these hazards.

Both Mission Valley Power and Century Link continue to restore power and internet services to the area. Skilled sawyers may also still be conducting hazard tree removal along the highway corridor. Traffic may be held up during these operations. Finally, power could be intermittent as infrastructure repair and replacement work continues.

Conditions: Weather is getting hotter and drier. However, with minimal pockets of heat, fire behavior is expected to be minimal with continued smoldering.

Cause: Lightning

More fire information: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/article/7754/63405/

Meetings:

Destruction:

Cost:

Dry Cabin

Updated August 11, 11:50 a.m.

Location: 20 miles north of Ovando, MT

Size: 3,060 acres

Containment: 0% containment

Evacuation Orders and Warnings: 

Major closures: For public safety, area closures are in place. Lolo National Forest Dry Fork area: affected closed trails include Dry Fork and upper Dry Fork #31 (all segments) at North Fork Cabin, Whiskey Cutoff #369, Cabin Creek #80, and Dwight Creek #414 and Canyon Creek #16 at the wilderness boundary. The main North Fork Trail #32 is OPEN, but #377 Sarbo Creek and the upper portions of Hobnail Tom #32.2 and Evans Peak #361 are CLOSED.

Flathead National Forest Danaher area: affected closed trails include the Eastside South Fork Trail #126 from junction with Rapid Creek #142 south to boundary with Lolo National Forest, including connecting trails Alloy Creek #265, Calf Creek #277, Spring Creek #144, Bar Creek #140, Limestone Pass #143, Blackfoot Divide #278. Alternate routes include Stadler Pass to Benchmark, Jenny Creek/Youngs Pass to Lodgepole TH, and Youngs Creek via Pyramid Pass to Pyramid TH.

Cause: Lightning

Conditions: Higher temperatures mid-week are anticipated to dry out fuels.

Closures: Area and Trail Closures in Effect in Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wildernesses Due to Dry Cabin Fire

More fire information: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/article/7660/63404/

Hay Creek

Updated August 12, 8:49 a.m.

Location: Approximately 4 miles west of Polebridge, Montana

Size: 2,894 acres

Containment: 30% containment

Evacuation Orders and Warnings: 

Moose Creek Road - All residents with driveway access from Moose Creek Road, Red Meadow Road - All residents with driveway access from Red Meadow Road, North Fork Road - All residents on both sides of the North Fork Road between Moose Creek Road and Home Ranch Bottoms, Polebridge Loop - 655, 700, 720 and 740 Polebridge Drive.

At this time the community of Polebridge, residents of Glacier Drive, and the remainder of residents not previously identified for Polebridge Loop are not in the warning area.

Major closures: Various regional closures https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/article/7712/62192/

Conditions: Today will be mostly sunny with temperatures between 74 to 80 degrees in the valley bottoms, with light winds out of the NE, up to 10 to 15 mph on the ridgetops.

Due to fire traffic and road construction in the area, travelers should drive defensively. For the most current fire weather forecast go to https://www.weather.gov/wrh/fire?wfo=mso. For smoke and air quality go to http://svc.mt.gov/deq/todaysair/. For current visibility in Glacier NP see https://www.nps.gov/glac/learn/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm

Cause: Lightning/natural

More fire information: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/article/7712/63406/

Meetings: 

Destruction: 

Cost: 

West Lolo Complex

Updated August 12, 5:16 p.m.

Location: West Lolo Complex includes the Thorne Creek Fire, near Thompson Falls, MT

Size: 23,010 Acres

Containment: 15%

Evacuation orders and warnings: The Sanders County Sheriff announced Wednesday that homes in the Harlow area are back to pre-evacuation warning status. An evacuation order has been issued for houses in the Snider and Copper King areas of the Lower Thompson River. The National Guard is staffing a roadblock at the intersection of the ACM road and the County Road just southwest of Snider. Resident's of Snider and Copper King will need passes to access their property. Passes can be obtained either at the roadblock or at the sheriff's office.

Major closures: 

Conditions: Northwest winds gusted around 25 mph on the fire today with temperatures in the low 90s and humidity in the low 20s.

Tomorrow the warming and drying trend continues with temperatures in the 90s and humidity around 20% on the fire. Winds will shift to the northeast with the potential for enhanced down valley winds gusting around 15 mph overnight in the Ashley Creek drainage, which is the main area of concern on the fire right now.

Cause: Lightning

More fire information: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/article/7620/63398/

Meetings:

Destruction:

Cost: 

Granite Pass Complex

Updated August 12, 10:00 a.m. 

Location: 35 miles southwest of Missoula

Size: 5,758 acres

Containment: 15%

Evacuation orders and warnings: 

Major closures:

Conditions: The warming and drying trend continues today with humidity dropping into the 20% range for the first time since July. Light winds are forecast today shifting to the northeast in the afternoon. Today and Friday will be the warmest and driest days this week ahead of a ridge bringing cooler weather late in the weekend.  

Cause: Lightning

More fire information: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/article/7653/63417/

Meetings: 

Destruction: 

Cost: $8.7 million

Goose Fire

Updated August 11, 4:09 p.m.

Location: 32 miles SSE of Ennis, MT near Hoodoo Pass

Size: 7,522 acres

Containment: 90%

Evacuation orders and warnings : 

Major closures: As of August 7 - https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd938376.pdf

Conditions: A continued warming and drying trend over the next two to three days could increase the amount of visible smoke.

Cause: Lightning

More fire information: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7618/

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