Updated 8:30 p.m. July 27, 2019
The Lewis & Clark County Sheriff has ordered more evacuations due to the North Hills Fire near Helena. American Bar and Eldorado Heights Subdivision are now included in the evacuation order. The Sheriff's Office says the fire is descending on Black Sandy Loop and they want to be prepared in case the fire jumps the river.
The Black Sandy and White Sandy campgrounds were ordered evacuated today, in addition to the evacuation order issued last night for the following areas: Noble Lane, Snowdrift Road, Big Belt Drive down to 6445 W. Haven Rd., Mountain Meadow road, Beginning at 6425 Timber Trail and north, Countryside Road, Black Sandy loop, Church Hill Lane.
Updated 12:36 p.m. July 27, 2019
The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning in Montana for conditions that could cause wildfires to start or spread quickly.
The warning for strong winds and low humidity is in effect for north-central Montana Saturday afternoon and evening while dry thunderstorms and breezy winds are forecast for southwestern Montana.
The warning is in effect across the Hi-Line from Browning to Harlem and south including areas around Great Falls and Lewistown. Areas around Helena, Butte and Dillon could see thunderstorms.
The North Hills Fire detected at noon yesterday on BLM land north of Helena has prompted new evacuations. The Black Sandy and White Sandy campgrounds were ordered evacuated today, in addition to the evacuation order issued last night for the following areas: Noble Lane, Snowdrift Road, Big build drive down to 6445 W. Haven Rd., Mountain Meadow road, Beginning at 6425 Timber Trail and north, Countryside Road, Black Sandy loop, Church Hill Lane.
A public meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Warren Elementary School, 2690 York Road in Helena. The public can call (406) 458-3508 for information.
The fire is estimated at 100 acres and its origin is under investigation.
A red flag warning is in effect from 11 a.m. through 9 p.m. today. Fire officials say, “wind continues to play a significant role in fire spread. ... Today will be a challenging weather day as hot and dry conditions combine with the wind to create critical fire conditions."
The Lolo National Forest reports that one firefighter sustained a minor injury, stitches for a cut knee on the Beeskove Fire burning about six miles north of Missoula in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area. The lightning-caused fire that was detected Monday remains at 35 acres (approx.) and is 0% contained. It continues to slowly move east, away from Missoula and towards Mineral Peak.
Today’s forecast is calling for a dry cold front to move through the area with strong westerly winds of 25-35 mph, which could increase fire activity.
Burning and rolling debris, due to the steep slopes, along with rugged terrain remains a challenge for firefighters. Yesterday, crews established an anchor point from Rattlesnake Creek up to the fire which will allow them a starting point for building a fire line. An anchor point is an advantageous location used to reduce the chance of firefighters being flanked by a fire.
Today, crews will continue improving containment lines on the southwest corner of the fire from Rattlesnake Creek to the fire’s edges, while also scouting and building line on the north end. They will be assisted by helicopters making water bucket drops, to cool and check the fire’s spread.
Three Hotshot Crews, two Type II crews, and four helicopters are currently working to contain the fire which is being actively suppressed, under a full suppression strategy. There are 103 personnel assigned to the fire. Additional resources have been ordered including one Hotshot Crew and an additional helicopter.
An area closure for the Rattlesnake Recreation Area, which includes numerous trails, remains in place this weekend. Visitors recreating in areas outside of the closure area could encounter fire equipment and personnel at the entrance to the main trailhead and along the main trail corridor.
The Lolo National Forest is currently at High fire danger.
The Flathead Beacon reports that the Moss Ranch Fire near Ronan grew to more than 4,800 acres on Friday following a successful burnout operation to starve the fire of fuel.
Fire crews have resumed work on the Bannack Fire a day after firefighters discovered two artillery shells in the fire interior.
Fire managers removed crews and the Lewis and Clark County Ordnance Team conducted an inspection of the shells last night. Both were determined to be spent 105mm illumination rounds from the 1940s; the ordinance was used in nighttime warfare to light up battlefields. The Ordnance team advised fire managers that crews could continue work in the area with safety protocols in place, including how to identify whether a shell was spent or potentially live. Beginning today, fire crews have been instructed to flag and mark with GPS any ordinance they might see, and halt work in that area until it can be inspected. Crews today will focus on extinguishing a number of small spot fires located north of the main fire. The Bannack Fire is managed by the MT Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC).
The Bannack Fire was caused by lightning and estimated at 151 acres and 35% containment. It is located approximately one mile south of Bannack.
Get the latest wildfire, fire management and air quality news for Western Montana and the Northern Rockies, on your radio during our morning and evening newscasts, via podcast, or in your inbox each day.