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

Wildfire east of Helena forces evacuations

Smoke from the Elmo Fire rises over the town of Elmo on the afternoon of August 4, 2022.
Josh Burnham
/
Montana Public Radio
Smoke from the Elmo Fire rises over the town of Elmo on the afternoon of August 4, 2022.

Matt Staff Fire

The Matt Staff Fire has led to evacuation orders for the west shore of Canyon Ferry Reservoir and Matt Staff Road in Helena. The fire began earlier today at the intersection of Highway 12 and Spokane Creek Road.

The Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office is asking all residents to avoid the area as the fire rapidly spreads east.

Mandatory evacuations are also underway for the northwest section of Broadwater County in anticipation of the possibility the wind may shift and move the fire into that area. The Broadwater County Sheriff’s Office has issued mandatory evacuations for Jimmy Green and Tremper roads and pre-evacuation orders for LF Baum and Lazy HM. An evacuation shelter is opening at 6 p.m. at the First Assembly of God Church at 2210 Dodge Avenue.

Units from DNRC, the Forest Service and all volunteer fire agencies in the valley are on the scene along with a large air tanker and four helicopters working the fire. There are no reports or assessments of structure damage at this time.

Elmo Fire

The Elmo Fire west of Flathead Lake has burned over 20,000 acres at last report. Fire officials say winds began picking up again Thursday afternoon, leading to active fire behavior near the southeastern shore of Lake Mary Ronan, but the fire has yet to reach the lake. A red flag warning is in effect for the area through 9 p.m. tonight.

Evacuations remain in place for the Lake Mary Ronan Road corridor and officials announced Thursday morning that the road is closed to all traffic, including area residents. The Lake County Sheriff’s Office is also reminding residents that the local transfer station is closed.

Officials say the fire was less active near Dayton and the western shore of Flathead Lake Thursday afternoon and that fire growth in that area was minimal.

Investigators with the CSKT Division of Fire say they have determined the fire was human-caused, but the specific cause is still under investigation.

Fire Weather

High winds and low humidity continue to drive dangerous fire conditions for most of Montana today. The Great Falls National Weather Service issued a red flag warning today for a band of the state stretching from the southwest to northeast expiring at 9 p.m. A high wind warning is in place for portions of the northern Rocky Mountain Front including Choteau, Conrad and Augusta, also until 9 p.m. The service warns residents should expect winds from 30 to 40 miles per hour with gusts up to 65 miles per hour. Forecasters predict conditions will ease Friday and Saturday as a cold front brings cooler temperatures and lighter winds.