Montana Wildfire Update For August 17, 2021
The Pine Grove fire has triggered a state of emergency on the Fort Belknap reservation. Mandatory evacuations are in place for Pine Grove, Zortman and the surrounding area. Lodge Pole and Starhill are still under an evacuation warning.
The fire started on Monday and is estimated to be around 20,000 acres as of Tuesday evening according to Fort Belknap officials.
South of Lodge Pole Monument Road, Carry Water Road, and Mission Canyon Road are all closed. Firefighters are digging a containment line inward from the east and west of the fire to meet at the Dry Lake.
The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning until midnight for south west, south central, central, south east and north east Montana, and north central Wyoming. Temperatures in the 90s to over 100 degrees, low humidity, gusty winds up to 45 miles per hour, and increasing thunderstorm activity will create erratic fire behavior. Scattered wet and dry thunderstorms late this afternoon and tonight may extend strong and erratic winds gusts well away from the storms.
The weather service has issued a heat advisory until 9 p.m. for portions of central, south central, and south east Montana and north central Wyoming with temperatures expected from the mid 90s to 104 degrees. A cold front arriving later today, will bring gusty north winds and a sharp drop in temperatures on Wednesday.
Cooler temperatures in Montana through the weekend are expected to lower fire activity
Forecasters say rain is expected to move into western Montana by Tuesday evening and head east by Wednesday. Up to an inch of rain is expected to fall in parts of the state, enough to dampen fires but not put them out.
Jeff Kitsmiller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Missoula, says it’s likely everyone in the western part of the state will see rain.
“And then, after that, there is another low pressure system that gets here as we get closer to the weekend, so we’ll have even more chances for rain.”
Kitsmiller says temperatures will likely remain in the 70s and 80s into the early part of next week.
Bob Setzenfand, a meteorologist with the weather service in Billings, says a noticeable cold front will bring rain and cooler temperatures to the eastern part of the state from Wednesday to Friday.
“It’s really going to be a big change from what we’ve had,” he says.
He says the weather service is forecasting below-normal temperatures for much of the state into late next week.
The wet and cold will bring temporary relief from wildfire smoke that’s wafting into the western part of the state.
Ben Schmidt is an air quality specialist with the Missoula City-County Health Department.
“I’m not saying we’re going to have no smoke, but I’m saying we should have greatly reduced smoke compared to what we’ve had in the last week,” Schmidt says.
He says cooler weather and some wind will likely move smoke out of the area.
However, Schmidt says he doubts Montana is out of the smoke season just yet.
These wildfire updates prioritize the latest information on incidents that could impact public health and safety. This is not a comprehensive list of fires burning in the state. The fires we report on will vary as information changes.