Cooler, moist and rainy weather earlier in the week has allowed firefighters to get a grip on the larger wildfires burning in Western Montana. Only one - the River Road East Fire - has shown any growth over the past 48 hours, though that may be due to a lack of mapping flights on the other fires. Here are the latest reports on each of the fires:

COLT FIRE (7154 acres - 15 miles northwest of Seeley Lake)

With a little help from last weekend's rain, the Colt Fire is now 63% contained. While work on the Colt Fire will continue, the fire management team will no longer be posting daily reports on the Colt Fire Facebook page.

Firefighters will continue to patrol, monitor, and mop up where hot spots are found. Suppression repair and rehabilitation plans are being implemented in areas of containment.

The Lolo National Forest has lifted the closure of the Rainy Lake Campground, Alva Lake Campground and their access roads.  All other Forest closures remain in place, including Lakeside Campground. More information for closures is available HERE.

RIVER ROAD EAST FIRE (17, 083 acres - 6 miles due East of Plains)

Fire containment has increased to 5% around the town of Paradise, MT on both sides of the Clark Fork River. Significant progress was made on the northwest flank of the fire yesterday as fire crews safely and successfully constructed handline through steep, broken terrain from the active fire edge above River Road East to the bluffs along the river. Heavy equipment continued to build line between Pat’s Knob Road and the fire perimeter, and the line now connects into the road system. Work will continue in this area as crews strengthen the line by removing vegetation that would carry fire.

On the east side of the fire, heavy equipment and hotshot crews have been building control line, cutting the fingers off the fire to limit spread on the eastern side. Several helicopters have been assigned to the fire to provide support.

As the weather returns to warmer and dry conditions, increased fire activity is likely. Smoke will be visible in more areas, and fire spread will increase as fuels continue to dry out from Monday’s rainstorm.  Firefighters will continue to take advantage of the slower fire growth working to build containment line around much of the fire perimeter. Additional crews, engines, heavy equipment, helicopters and fire line leadership have arrived, allowing resources to cover more of the complex and remote terrain the fire is burning in. Helicopters will be working in support of ground crews delivering water to strategic areas to support perimeter control operations.

Because of the progress firefighters have been making, the Sanders County Sheriff’s Office opened the McLaughlin Creek Road to residents only yesterday. The area is still under a pre-evacuation warning.

River Road East Fire Public Meeting Thursday, August 24, 2023 6:00 to 7:00 pm Plains High School Gym 412 Rittenour Street Plains, Montana Fire personnel, agency representatives, and local officials will be present to provide brief updates and be available for questions. The meeting will be held in-person and will be livestreamed on the River Road East Fire Facebook page.


SIDNEY FIRE (198 acres - 16 miles west of Heart Butte)

Trails in the area remain closed. CLICK HERE for the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest's latest closure map.

RIDGE FIRE  (3651 acres - 6 miles southeast of Hungry Horse)

The Hungry Horse Reservoir remains closed to all public access, including both the east and west side roads. As firefighting efforts continue on the Ridge Fire, the Tin Soldier, and other fires in the area. Visit the Flathead National Forest website for more information.

Yesterday ground resources continued to monitor the fire, which is now 76% contained. Road accessibility continues to be an issue as the ground begins to dry out. The southeast corner of the fire was inaccessible, but managers assessed the northern most section of line for opportunities to construct handline. Today crews will continue assessing this northern section, as well as patrol the fire line and plan for backhaul missions. A repair group will be evaluating restoration needs.


DORIS POINT FIRE (1534 acres - 8 miles south of Hungry Horse)

Road access was difficult for resources on the Doris Point Fire and crews spent yesterday clearing downed trees and rolling debris off the roadways. Today ground resources will continue with that mission, in addition to securing rolling debris near Doris Creek Campground and monitoring the fire perimeter. Officially, the fire is 10% contained.

TIN SOLDIER COMPLEX (7697 acres - 17 miles east of Swan Lake)

Yesterday managers worked closely with Resource Advisors regarding the mechanical thinning project timeline along Meadow Creek. Similar to the other fires, road access remains challenging. Today crews will check pump operations around the structures and look for opportunities to backhaul supplies and equipment. Resources will also secure an area of slop over that occurred prior to the rain event.

An evacuation order issued by the Flathead County Sheriff for Heinrude community remains in effect. Visit the Flathead Sheriff’s office Facebook page for details.

EAST FORK FIRE (4614 acres - 12 miles south of Trego, MT )

Operations on Tuesday, August 23, focused on taking advantage of the weather and the pause in fire activity to put containment lines as close to the fire as possible given terrain and vegetation. In areas with better access, heavy equipment was able to widen roadways to serve as containment and contingency lines. Hand crews made good progress in more rugged areas.

The recent rain has helped calm fire activity in the region and resources previously committed to other fires are coming available. A second 20-person hot shot crew arrives today and will begin constructing line adjacent to the fire. The hot shot crews will work in some of the most challenging terrain, such as the Martin Creek drainage. Additional hand crews should be on the way.

Tree felling and mop up activities will continue, especially on the western side or “heel” of the fire. Crews will attempt back burning operations to help strengthen containment lines.

Structure protection work has been completed and these resources will shift to help with the south side of the fire. While the rain saturated the fuels/soils in the plantations (new growth areas), significant rainfall did not reach the ground in old growth areas. Firefighters will be monitoring changing conditions and watching for increasing fire activity as the vegetation dries and the weather warms this week.


Some communities remain in a Pre-Evacuation Warning.  Residents may return to their homes under a Pre-Evacuation Warning, but may need to leave again on short notice. For more information, go to the Sheriff’s Department website.



BIG KNIFE FIRE (7275 acres - 5 miles east of Arlee)

After a season-slowing rain event earlier this week, fuels are beginning to dry, and wisps of smoke are visible in pockets around the fire. Crews continue to patrol and monitor fire activity in Agency Creek and along S-Canal Road. Anticipating the future warming and drying trends, the Jocko Lookout is being assessed for additional protection improvements. Crews are wrapping the structure with an aluminum/fiberglass covering that blocks up to 96% of radiant heat in the event that flames reach the site. Jocko Lookout was built in 1969. These days, the treated-wood tower is only staffed in emergencies.

The Big Knife Fire is currently 1.25 miles north of the Rattlesnake Wilderness Boundary (Lolo National Forest) with no significant growth towards the Lolo National Forest in the last week. Smoke from the fire may impact the Snowbowl area, however the Lolo National Forest does not have any forest closures in place on the Missoula Ranger District.

Several areas near the base of the mountains west of the Big Knife Fire remain in PRE-EVACUATION WARNING by order of the Lake County Sheriff. The Tribal Primitive Area, Belmore Slough and Burnt Cabin Roads are closed.

BOWLES CREEK FIRE (6985 acres -

Fire crews remain present along Hwy 38. Construction crews will also be present on Hwy 38, as road grading is occurring today to mitigate for the increased traffic on the road. Additionally, due to recent rain and winds, several fallen snags have been removed from Hwy 38 over the last day. Motorists in the area should be aware of the potential for falling snags and increased personnel and equipment on the roadway.

Completion of fire management objectives remains at 23%. Fire crews continue to construct and strengthen fuel breaks along roads and other areas of value. Firefighters are utilizing firing operations and fuels reduction work to strengthen lines. Fire crews continue cold trailing along the southeastern portion of the fire. Cold trailing is a method of controlling a partly dead fire edge by carefully inspecting and feeling with the hand for heat to detect any fire, digging out every live spot, and trenching any live edge. This will ensure future firing operations in the area safely meet management objectives.

NIARANDA FIRE (20,365 acres - 12 miles west of Elmo) & MILL POCKET FIRE (1869 acres - 3 miles West of Hwy. 28)

Both the Niarada Fire and Mill Pocket Fire are 100% contained.

The Lake County Sheriff's office lifted the pre-evacuation warnings related to the Niarada Fire. All residents may bring their livestock back home.

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