200+ Structures, BNSF Snow Sheds, and 1 Wooden Trestle Now Deemed At Risk

Update - 3:30pm  Highway 2 CLOSED

The Sheep Fire has moved to about 1 mile from the highway and the BNSF tracks. Both have been closed temporarily to allow firefighters safe access to the fire. The area closed is between mile markers 178 and 185...from Halfway Motel near Pinnacle to Bear Creek.

The Sheep Creek Fire, part of the Thompson-Divide Complex, burns in the Flathead National Forrest about 2.5 miles south of Essex, MT, Aug. 18, 2015. (Photo Jonathan Moor, NPS)

The Sheep Fire is about 2.5 miles south of Essex in the Great Bear Wilderness of Flathead National Forest, burning in very steep, difficult terrain with no access, and expanding northeastward toward U.S. Highway 2.  The fire was very active Wednesday with the winds from the west which caused suppression crews to disengage because direct operations were not proving effective.  Single engine air tankers made a number of retardant drops on the Sheep Fire. Helicopters actively made bucket drops. Fire managers will reassess fire activity and weather today to determine when crews can reengage safely.

Portions of the Highway 2 corridor around Essex moved into the ‘Set’ Stage of the Ready, Set, Go evacuation strategy. Residents of Essex and surrounding area are advised to prepare their property and themselves because of the proximity of the fire. Flathead County Sheriff is informing residents of the potential for evacuation. It is recommended that affected people load critical property and needs into their car.  They should have an evacuation plan in place and make sure everyone knows the plan. Visit for more information.

The Granite Fire is west of Marias Pass and south of Hwy. 2 in the Great Bear Wilderness. It was detected Aug. 16 burning in very steep terrain in a mixed conifer forest below a ridge. The fire was totally smoked in Wednesday, preventing firefighters from safely engaging and using aircraft water bucket drops. Today, crews will try to reenter the area and determine the best plan of attack based on conditions. Crews have been encountering numerous snags that need to be dealt with for safety before line construction. The Granite Creek Trail (#156) is closed.

The Thompson Fire, reported Aug. 9, is located in a remote south-central backcountry area of Glacier National Park about 15 miles east of the West Glacier entrance in the Thompson and Nyack drainage and west of the Continental Divide.Crews are camped out and working in the Nyack Creek drainage. Crews have been successfully conducting burnout operations to help contain the fire by reducing fuels in avalanche chutes on the west side of the fire’s perimeter. Today, this crew will focus on mopping up hot spots within the burnout operation. The fire remains west of the Divide and poses no threat to communities around East Glacier and St. Mary. Most of Glacier National Park is unaffected by this wildfire and is available for recreational use. Limited backcountry closures are in place.

The weather forecast calls for warmer and dryer conditions with SW winds increasing Thursday and Friday. The arrival of a cold front by Friday is the main concern for the Incident Management Team, as the front can push the Sheep Fire towards Highway 2 and Essex and increase fire growth and spread on Thompson and Granite Fires.

The  Spruce Fire was added to the complex Aug. 19, with 4 Smoke Jumpers providing initial attack on the 2-acre blaze, which is located in the Hungry Horse Ranger District, about 5 miles south of the Sheep Fire.