Evacuation expected to last up to a week.
Sheep Fire burning downhill toward Essex, Aug 27 (Photo: Steve Houser,USFS)

The Sheep Fire is the incident priority of the three fires that make up the Thompson-Divide Wildfire Complex.as it is approaching US Hwy. 2 and the BNSF railway and is threatening the community of Essex. As of Friday evening, the fire had closed to within 1/8-mile of the railroad main line, and was 1 mile from Essex.

 
Area residents are under a mandatory evacuation order until further notice.  An evacuation center has been established by the American Red Cross at the West Glacier Elementary School, at 160 Old Bridge Road in West Glacier.
Highway 2 is closed between mileposts 176.8 and 185 around Essex. Call 511 or click HERE for current road status.
BNSF trains and Amtrak are running intermittently For more information on Amtrak call 1-(800) 872-7245.
 
WEATHER:A Red Flag Warning has been issued for Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. for gusty winds and low humidity. These conditions may cause active fire behavior including short crown runs and short range spotting on all three fires in the complex. Weather conditions will be changing this weekend. A cold front is approaching late Saturday afternoon with maximum temperatures expected to drop 10-15 degrees by Sunday. In advance of this front, winds are expected to increase on Saturday with gusts of 25-35 mph on ridge tops. Humidity will increase with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms as this front passes through the area.
Equipment clearing a fuel break along the BNSF track near Essex, Aug 27 (Photo:Steve Houser, USFS)

The Sheep Fire  is now 1595 acres, and burning in very steep terrain with limited access. The fire is about 1 mile south of Essex and about 1/8 mile from the train tracks between Tank Creek and MacDonald Creek. The fire has not crossed Sheep Creek to the south. Because of clouds and heavy smoke, the fire was less active today. Winds were significant, especially on ridges. Construction of a shaded fuel break using heavy equipment on the west-side of the BNSF railroad tracks from Sheep Creek to Dickey Creek drainages started Aug. 26. This activity continued today around Essex and efforts were made to remove the logs and slash that have accumulated. The objective of this fuel break is to reduce the fuel component and space the tree crowns to limit fire spread and torching. It will also provide a safe location for firefighters if it is decided to burn out fuels in advance of the fire front. Helicopters were actively used to drop water on the fire until later in the day due to a lack of adequate visibility. Structural protection in Essex will continue. A night shift continues to monitor fire movement and patrol the Essex area and Walton compound for any encroaching fire activity.

Granite Fire - evening of August 26 (Photo: Northern Rockies IMT)

The Granite Fire now 701 acres, and is burning in very steep terrain in a mixed conifer forest. The fire is located west of Marias Pass and south of Hwy. 2. The fire started in the Great Bear Wilderness and has moved north out of the Wilderness. Yesterday, the fire moved to the west along a ridge between 2 unnamed tributaries of Granite Creek and northwest toward Patrol Ridge. A crew was flown into the Granite Cabin to put in structure protection measures, including wrapping and sprinkler placement. Crews have implemented structural protection measures on other facilities in the fire’s vicinity. Crews have established locations for fireline construction and possible shaded fuel break opportunities when sufficient crews become available for their construction. Helicopter bucket drops are being used to help check fire spread.he fire is located west of Marias Pass and south of Hwy. 2.

The Thompson Fire, at 17,284 acres and 20% containment, is located in remote south-central backcountry of Glacier National Park about 15 miles east of the West Glacier entrance in the Thompson and Nyack drainages west of the Continental Divide. Increased fire activity was seen within the fire perimeter south of Tinkham Mountain today. Firefighters in the Nyack Creek drainage finished burnout and mop up operations in the northwest corner (Division A) of the fire and were flown out yesterday. Pumps and hose lay are in place in case a future need arises and the fire will be monitored by air.
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Most of Glacier National Park is unaffected by this wildfire complex and is available for recreational use. Going-to-the-Sun Road is Open. Limited backcountry closures are in place. For more specific visitor information, click HERE.

Closures are in effect for some trails in the vicinity of the fires for Glacier National Park and Flathead National Forest. For more info, click HERE.