Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 7, 2019

Aug 7, 2019

Updated 4:30 p.m., August 7, 2019

Winds have pushed the Horsefly Fire east-southeast and across the Continental Divide since it was first reported Monday afternoon. The fire is now nearly 1,300 acres and 0% contained.

Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton says the evacuation order for the Flesher Acres subdivision is still in effect, and that his office has drawn up plans for a second evacuation area from Flesher Acres to Stemple pass in case it’s needed.

New closures are in effect for national forest land near the Horsefly and Nevada Creek fires. You can find a map of those closures here.

U.S. Highway 279 is closed to bicycle traffic from the intersection of Montana Highway 200 to Stemple Pass road. Due to the proximity of the fire to the Continental Divide Trail, that trail is closed from Stemple Pass south to Dana Spring and an alternate route has been identified. Users should follow Stemple Pass road into Lincoln (northbound) or Highway 279 south to Marysville (southbound).

A new incident management team will take over on the 350 acre Beeskove Fire burning in steep, rugged terrain in the Rattlesnake Recreation area north of Missoula.

Firefighters will continue working to creating fuel breaks through hazardous fuel removal along accessible routes and natural fuel breaks.

Officials say Wednesday's hot and dry weather could bring an increase in fire activity and visible smoke.

The following areas are now closed due to Beeskove Fire suppression operations:
• Woody Mountain – Johnson Gulch area is now closed to recreational use.
• Sheep Mountain Trailhead is now closed along with access to the trailhead via East Twin Creek Road FS 2117 and Upper Twin Creek Road FS 2119.
• Mineral Peak Lookout is closed as well as access to the lookout via the East Fork Rattlesnake Road FS 2112 and Mineral Peak Lookout Road 2120.
• Upper Twin Creek/Sheep Mountain Spur Trail #505 is now closed.

Many areas in the Rattlesnake remain open like Sawmill Gulch and the Rattlesnake Wilderness. Additionally, the Woods Gulch trailhead and the Marshall Canyon area remain open. For additional closure information, please contact the Missoula Ranger Station at (406) 329-3814.

Flathead National Forest officials announced new trail closures today on the Spotted Bear Ranger District due to the 1,100 acre Snow Creek Fire burning in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

According to inciweb, "Structure protection operations are ongoing at the Salmon Forks Cabin and the Big and Little Salmon Packbridges, personnel are prepared to begin point protection at Mud Lake Lookout if necessary. Contact has been made with all known parties recreating in the area; crews are continuing to make public contact, conduct trail sweeps, and assist affected parties in adjusting travel plans."

Twelve counties around Montana have now instituted burning restrictions because of the dry conditions, low humidity and warm temperatures. Wednesday, Stillwater County shut down its electronic burn permit system at the recommendation of local fire chiefs, essentially banning open burning. And Yellowstone County will shut down its burn permit system on Saturday at midnight. Countywide open burn bans are in effect in Toole, Madison, Beaverhead, Petroleum, Blaine, Golden Valley, Cascade and Musselshell counties until further notice. And debris burning is still prohibited in Ravalli, Lewis and Clark and Jefferson counties.

Updated 7:42 a.m., August 7, 2019

Two lightning-caused fires discovered on Lolo Pass Monday were estimated to be within a mile of Lolo Hot Springs and two miles of the Lolo Pass Visitor Center yesterday afternoon. Both are small and being attacked by aircraft and ground crews. Yesterday the Lolo National Forest said they were not threatening any structures.

The West Fork Lolo 2 fire is located one mile southwest of Lolo Hot Springs, half-a-mile west of Lee Creek Campground, which is now closed. That fire is estimated at four acres.

The Wagon Mountain Fire is burning about 15 acres approximately two miles northeast of the Lolo Pass Visitor Center. Multiple aircraft responded immediately along with two engines, one 20-person hand crew from the nearby Beeskove Fire and one 10-person hand crew from the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest. Another 20-person hand crew and an excavator arrived yesterday morning, and more resources were arriving. Two large, Type 1 helicopters are dropping water.

The future of that fire could depend on the weekend weather, says Public Information Officer Katie Knotek, which calls for thunderstorms and rain.

“There’s always a likelihood of fires moving due to high winds and if we get any rain, that will definitely moderate fire behavior, which would be a good thing,” Knotek said.

The Lolo National Forest remains in very high fire danger. No evacuations are currently in place, and no structures are threatened, but the Lee Creek Campground is closed.

Knotek says any visitors to the area should be mindful of any smoke and report it.

Over the weekend, firefighters responded to four additional wildfire starts on the Lolo National Forest. Three were lightning caused, one was human-caused. All of these fires were a quarter-acre or less and were quickly controlled and contained.

Another 25 to 30 homes could be evacuated about 15 miles east of Lincoln if the fast-growing Horsefly Fire continues moving east-southeast.

Seventy seven homes were under the initial evacuation order the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s office issued Monday.

At a public meeting Tuesday night at the Canyon Creek volunteer fire department, fire officials and local law enforcement briefed more than 75 locals on current conditions.

Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton says the evacuation order for the Flesher Acres subdivision is still in effect , and that his office has drawn up a second evacuation area in case it’s needed.

Winds have pushed the Horsefly Fire east-southeast and across the Continental Divide since it was first reported Monday afternoon.

“If the fire reaches our management active point we will evacuate from that spot on highway 279 and Flesher Acres all the way down to Stemple pass, on both sides of the road,” Dutton said. 

Dutton told the crowd last night he will give them 2 hours notice before a potential evacuation order is announced.

The Horsefly Fire was 500 acres at last report, but fire officials say with significant growth expected there is no current estimate on the fire’s size.

While the Horsefly fire is very active, U.S. Forest Service Officials say the Nevada Creek fire, burning just under 60 acres southeast of Lincoln, is not expected to grow in the coming days.

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