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Elbow Pass Complex Fires Update – Aug. 21, 2012

Here is the latest update on the Elbow Pass Complex fires west of Augusta, and related trail closures:

Elbow Pass Complex   Rocky Mountain Ranger District, Lewis and Clark National Forest, 19,712 Acres – The Elbow Pass Complex is comprised of five different lightning ignitions from July 12 through July 31. These four fires have merged into one fire, the Elbow Pass Complex: Triple Divide Fire, Rapid Creek Fire, Elbow Pass Fire, and Bar Creek Fire.  The fires are generally located 25 miles west southwest of Augusta, Montana. The Falls Point fire is south of the Complex. All are located in inaccessible terrain in heavy fuels. The fires are in the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness Areas and are on three forests.

There are 15,852 acres burned on the Lewis & Clark National Forest, 297 acres on the Lolo National Forest and 3,282 acres on the Flathead National Forest. The Falls Point Fire has had minimal spread and remains at 281 acres. Total for the Elbow Pass Complex is currently 19,712 acres. It is estimated that the Complex has increased by only 41 acres from yesterday.

 A Fire Use Module (firefighters) has been assigned to the Benchmark Trail Head for fire monitoring and for initial attack as needed. Fire growth was small in the general west/south west area of the fire.

Yesterday’s Activities: Wildland Fire Module monitored fire spread in South Fork Sun River, took fuel moisture samples and weather observations. Helicopters dropped water on the South Fork of the Sun and met their objective of holding the fire up.  False Point fire had no change in acreage, it experienced some interior burning. There was some lightning in the fire area.

Today’s Planned Activities:  Continue with Initial Attack responsibilities on Forest as requested. Fine tune structure protection at Danaher, Basin, and Benchmark Trailhead. Wildland Fire Module will monitor fire spread in South Fork Sun River, take fuel moisture samples and weather observations. Helicopter reconnaissance of fire, repeater battery replacement and some bucket work in the South Fork of the Sun intending to delay fire spread. 

Prisoner Lake Fire   Spotted Bear Ranger District, Flathead National Forest – The Fire was detected on July 30, 2012 in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Spotted Bear Ranger District. This fire is being managed for suppression. The fire continues to smolder and creep through the brush above Molly Creek. The fire has burned 4,080 acres and this fire transitioned from a Type 3 fire to a Type 4 fire (less activity and less complex fire) on 8-16-12. This will be the last update until conditions and/or fire behavior significantly changes.   

Falls Point Fire   Seeley Lake Ranger District, Lolo National Forest, 203 Acres – This fire is located entirely within the Scapegoat Wilderness, approximately two miles north of the Forest Service cabin at North Fork.  Fire behavior primarily creeping and smoldering with occasional single tree torching.  Planned actions are to monitor fire growth and spread.  The fire engulfed the old Falls Point Lookout and burned it up; this tower had not been a subject of protection because of its decrepit condition.   As of August 16th the Falls Point Fire has been added to the Elbow Pass Complex.

Wedge Creek Fire Seeley Lake Ranger District, Lolo National Forest – A lightning-caused fire approximately 13 miles north of Ovando on the Seeley Lake Ranger District. This fire is burning in steep terrain and heavy timber in a remote area about two miles south of the Scapegoat Wilderness boundary. The fire is producing a smoke column visible from highway 200 and Ovando. A Type I helicopter was used yesterday to drop water on the fire preventing spread. Backing fire, moderate flame lengths and some torching were observed. The fire has spread over the ridge to the east and some to the north. Due to heavy fuel loadings with intermittent bug-killed trees, steep slopes and inaccessible terrain it is unsafe to have crews on the ground. No structures or property are currently threatened by the fire. The fire is expected to become active again today. Fire managers met members of the community yesterday evening in Ovando to discuss fire operations and long-term strategies.

Location:  Wedge Creek Fire, 13 miles north of Ovando. Meadow Creek Fire, three miles east of Coopers Lake. Both fires are located on the Seeley Lake Ranger District

Size: Approximately 420 acres  Terrain: Steep and remote terrain. The fire is also burning in heavy fuel

Today’s Plan: Survey fire area from a helicopter at approximately 1:00 p.m. and map the fire perimeter using GPS. Today’s weather is favorable with partly cloudy skies and a chance of rain showers in the afternoon.

Closures:

Fenn Mountain Trail #88 — the entire trail, beginning in T 16 N, R 12 W, Section 3.

Conger Point Trail #468 — the entire trail, beginning in T 17 N, R 11 W, Section 31.

Dwight Creek Trail #414 — from the junction with Conger Point Trail #468 to Omar Mountain T 17 N, R 12 W, Section 14.

Conger Creek Trail #403 — from the junction with Conger Point Trail #468 T 17 N, R12 W, Sec. 23 to the junction with Canyon Point Trail #1437 T17 N, R 11 W, Sec. 29.

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