At 6 a.m. this morning Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry lifted the mandatory evacuation order for Essex and the surrounding area and placed the community back to the ‘Set’ Stage of the Ready, Set, Go evacuation model. Residents are advised to remain prepared to evacuate if conditions again warrant this action.

U.S. Highway 2 reopened at 6 a.m. today, with pilot cars escorting traffic between mileposts 176.5 at Schellinger and 185 at Bear Creek. Escorted vehicles are not allowed to stop in this area. BNSF trains and Amtrak are running intermittently. Call 511 or click HERE for current road status. For more information on Amtrak call (800) 872-7245.
WEATHER: Today, the fire areas will have temperatures in the mid-60s and higher humidity in 30-40 percent range, which will help keep fire behavior minimal. Similar weather conditions are expected to continue for the next several days. These conditions will give firefighters new opportunities to build fireline on fire edges.

 

Feller-Bunchers operate along the BNSF tracks to create a shaded fuels break between Essex, MT, and the Thompson-Divide Complex’s Sheep Fire Aug. 26, 2015. (photo Jonathan Moor)

The Sheep Fire is now 2,102 acres, on the Flathead National Forest and burning in very steep terrain with limited access. The fire remains about 1 mile south of Essex and about 1/8 mile from the train tracks between Tank Creek and McDonald Creek. The fire has not crossed Sheep Creek to the south. Today, firefighters plan to engage the fire with direct suppression efforts along fire edges in the Sheep Creek and Tank Creek. Construction of the shaded fuel break along tracks across from Goat Lick is completed. The shaded fuel breaks in the areas around Essex, Essex Creek Road, and the County park land is near completion. The logs and slash created by this effort are being moved to a safe location. These shaded fuel breaks create defensible positions if burning operations are required later. Structural protection measures are in place in Essex. Some 200 structures are endangered by this fire, but none have been lost. A night shift will continue to monitor fire movement and patrol the Essex area and Walton compound for any encroaching fire activity.

The Granite Fire is burning in very steep terrain in a mixed conifer forest. The fire is estimated at 840 acres, and 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. The fire has moved west along a ridge between 2 unnamed tributaries of Granite Creek and northwest toward Patrol Ridge. 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. One engine and crew are using existing roads to monitor fires progress.
 
The Thompson Fire is the largest (17,857 acres) of the three fires that make up the Thompson-Divide Wildfire Complex, and 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. All fire personnel have been removed from this fire. It will be monitored from the air for any increased fire activity. Pumps and hose lays are in place in case a future need arises.  The fire investigator was able to fly into the fire area yesterday and determined the fire was lightning caused.
Most of Glacier National Park is unaffected by this wildfire complex and is available for recreational use. The trail over Triple Divide Pass between the Cutbank campground and the Red Eagle Lake campground, including the Medicine Grizzly Lake Trail spur, as well as the Cut Bank drive-in campground and the Atlantic backcountry campground have reopened. Other limited backcountry closures remain in effect for visitor safety. Please click HEREfor current information.
 
The Thompson Fire has not impacted park roads.  The Going-to-the-Sun Road is open.
Click HERE for air quality info.