MTPR

Montana Wildfire Roundup For July 31, 2019

Jul 31, 2019

Updated: 5:30 p.m., July 31, 2019 

New forest closures were announced due to the North Hills Fire north of Helena, which has burned more than 4,700 acres. 

The Forest Service closure includes the southern Gates of the Mountain wilderness boundary, extending south along the York/Nelson road to York. It also goes west along York Road to the forest boundary, then north following the boundary and Missouri River. 

Many residents in the Helena area were cleared to return to their homes today, including in the following areas:

American Bar Subdivision, Nelson, Eldorado Heights Subdivision, everything south of North Slope Road & Overland Road, on or south of Overland Road, on or south of North Slope Road. 

Areas still under evacuation include:

Noble Lane, Snowdrift Road east of Ferry Drive, Tea Road east of Ferry Drive, Big Belt Drive, Westhaven Road. Countryside, Black Sandy Loop, Timber Trail north of Overland Road, Black Sandy Campground and White Sandy Campground.

About 440 responders assigned to the blaze are working to establish fire lines.

The North Hills Fire closure area as of July 31, 2019.
Credit inciweb

Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation firefighters are also working to contain a 52-acre wildfire on state lands west of Kalispell near Tornilla Creek. The fire was detected last night by a fixed-wing aircraft and was initially estimated to be around seven to eight acres. The cause is under investigation. The blaze grew into the evening and jumped control lines overnight. The Tornilla Fire is now estimated to be around 52 acres. Four helicopters are assisting four crews on the ground. Another 40 firefighters are expected to respond Thursday. Forest Service, local and country firefighters are assisting. 

Elsewhere, a new fire has started roughly four miles south of Wise River in the Beaverhead National Forest.

The 60-acre Adson Fire was spotted around 2 p.m. and is threatening seasonal residences. According to Forest Service spokesperson Leona Rodreick, officials are unsure how many homes are threatened.

Firefighters are currently trying to establish a line to prevent the fire from advancing with the help of an engine and a helicopter. More resources are on the way.

Officials are also closely watching a small fire started by lightning last night in the south end of the Bitterroot National Forest.

The blaze, one-tenth of an acre large, is located near Hamilton in the Lost Horse drainage about a mile south of Camas Lake.

Helicopters have been dumping water on the fire, which is burning on a steep cliff inaccessible to ground crews.

No structures are at risk at this point, but Forest Service spokesperson Tod McKay says firefighters are making sure the North Lost Fire doesn’t spread to nearby timber, where it could grow to threaten homes and private property in the Lost Horse Canyon.

Updated: 11:58 a.m., July 31, 2019

The North Hills Fire north of Helena has burned 4,668 acres and 15 percent of the fire is contained.

Residents in the Timber Trail, El Dorado Heights, and American Bar areas are still under evacuation orders. The Lewis and Clark Country Sheriff's Office updated evacuation notices on its Facebook page.

Residents are being allowed back into their homes at noon today in the following areas:

American Bar Subdivision, Nelson, Eldorado Heights Subdivision, everything south of North Slope Road & Overland Road, on or south of Overland Road, on or south of North Slope Road

The following areas are still under evacuation:

Noble Lane, Snowdrift Road east of Ferry Drive, Tea Road east of Ferry Drive, Big Belt Drive, Westhaven Road, Countryside, Black Sandy Loop, Timber Trail north of Overland Road, Black Sandy Campground, White Sandy Campground

No access will be allowed to the general public at this time in any of these areas. Road blocks will remain in place at various locations. We will notify the public when the remaining evacuations are lifted. The public may call the North Hills Fire information line at 406-458-3508 with questions.

All residents in the immediate vicinity of these fires are strongly encouraged to sign up for reverse 911  for evacuation notices.

About 440 responders are assigned to the fire and will continue to establish a fire line today.

According to an update on InciWeb at about 10 a.m. today, firefighters don’t expect much growth today, but plan to “assess structure protection and develop a response plan for areas east of the Missouri River.”

The northeast section of the fire has the largest potential to spread and winds over the next 24 hours could help the fire jump the Missouri River.  Today, the National Weather Service is issuing a red flag warning for the area from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Temps are expected to hit 90 degrees and thunderstorms are expected this evening.

“Private property, structures, and infrastructure in the Timber Trail area, El Dorado Heights, and American Bar area are threatened,” this morning’s update said. “Additionally, grazing lands, recreational improvements along the Missouri River (White Sandy Campground, Black Sandy Campground), and potentially power lines in the vicinity could be threatened.”

The Almas's Type 2 Incident Management Team that's managing the North Hills Fire is also tackling the Devil's Tower and Owl Gulch fires, which sparked during a thunderstorm Tuesday. The Devil’s Tower Fire is about 10 acres. Over 20 firefighters are working on the fire with two air tankers. One HotShot crew is working on the Owl Gulch fire.

The Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s office told 12 Homes in York to evacuate because of the fires.

For more updates: go to InciWeb and follow the Lewis and Clark Country Sheriff's office Facebook page.

Updated 11:20 a.m., July 31, 2019

The Kelley Gulch Fire was sparked by lightning Tuesday and was first reported around 2:30 that afternoon. The fire is burning in steep terrain between Clancy Creek and Lump Gulch south of Helena.

The state Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service and Montana City and Eastgate volunteer fire departments are responding. Two DNRC helicopters were also on the scene Tuesday. No structures are threatened and no evacuation notices have been given.

Firefighters will work today to improve the fire line and begin the mop-up operation along the fire’s perimeter. Air support will also be on hand.

Today, the National Weather Service is issuing a red flag warning for the area from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Temps are expected to hit 90 degrees and thunderstorms are expected this evening.

Updated 9:30 a.m., July 31, 2019

Map of the Beeskove Fire northeast of Missoula. The map was last updated Tuesday morning.
Credit U.S. Forest Service

The Beeskove Fire burning in the Rattlesnake Recreation Area northeast of Missoula saw moderate growth Tuesday. According to an update this morning from the Lolo National Forest, “some uphill runs and group tree torching were witnessed within the fire’s perimeter.”

Firefighters were able to establish an “indirect fire line” from Rattlesnake Creek up to the south western corner of the fire. This will help ground operations prevent the fire’s spread along Rattlesnake creek where containment is still at 0 percent.

Other areas of the fire have proven hard to contain in the steep and rugged terrain.

“Firefighters continue to engage and suppress this fire when and where it is safe to do so and where they can be successful,” Missoula District Ranger Jennifer Hensiek said. “Due to the location in the steep and rugged terrain, it is likely this will take a longer effort by crews and fire managers to establish containment. We continue to work closely our partners at Missoula County, Montana DNRC, Missoula County Sheriff’s Office and The Nature Conservancy to assess where firefighters can engage this challenging fire.”

More resources are being assigned to the fire as a Type 3 team plans for how to engage the fire through the week. Four Hotshot crews, two Type II crews, and six helicopters are working to contain the fire Currently, there are 175 personnel assigned to the fire. No structures have been threatened.

Temperatures are around 94 today and there is a chance for thunderstorms this evening.

For more information:

Lolo National Forest Facebook page

InciWeb

Updated 9:43 a.m., July 31, 2019

Kootenai National Forest and local firefighters are calling a wildfire just north of Libby "contained."

The fire was reported Tuesday afternoon. Later in the evening, the Forest Service estimatesd that the Pit Fire burned roughly seven acres of national forest land  about one mile north of Highway 37.

Two helicopters responded, but were later put on standby Tuesday. The Libby Volunteer Fire Department also worked with Forest Service fire crews into the evening to maintain the fire line and put out hot spots in the interior of the fire. 

The Forest Service said crews will remain on site today to put out hot spots and ensure that the fire lines hold. Light smoke can be expected. 

For more information:

Kootenai National Forest Facebook page

Updated: 11:01 a.m., July 31, 2019

Efforts to fight the lightning-caused Moss Ranch Fire on the Flathead Indian Reservation are winding down. The Salish and Kootenai Tribes Division of Fire says the roughly 5,300 acre fire is 80 percent contained. No structures were harmed and no evacuation notices were given.

Minimal fire activity was observed Tuesday and firefighters are expected to continue mop-up operations today. A few Forest Service Roads remain closed due to the fire. Highs today are expected to be in the lower to mid-90s with winds around four to eight miles per hour.

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