Cooler, Wet Weather Returns to Aid Montana Firefighters
Cool, wet weather has returned to western and north central Montana, aiding firefighting efforts today. It's not the season-ending event we need, but the meteorologist working with the East Fork Fire management team calls it a "season-slowing event."
A total of 0.75 to 1.5 inches of rain by is anticipated in the area around Hungry Horse Reservoir by Thursday morning, which will have a significant affect on the Ridge, Doris Point and Tin Soldier Complex fires..
Here is the latest updates on the on Western Montana's major fires:
SIDNEY FIRE (228 acres - 16 miles west of Heart Butte)
As of last Friday (August 25) the fire is estimated to be around 228 acres, and there have been no new reports since then. The fire has smoldering and creeping in timber on the west side of the South Fork Two Medicine River. The National Weather Service's equipment at Deep Creek, near the fire's location, recorded 0.20" of rain overnight, and radar indicates more light rain falling in the area this morning.
A fire crew is on the ground with support from one helicopter. The helicopter will continue support by shuttling crews and is available for water drops from the nearby South Fork Two Medicine River if fire activity picks up. Firefighters also have permission from the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council to use water from Dog Gun Lake on the Reservation if they need it. The goal is to keep the fire from crossing the river.
Trails in the area remain closed. CLICK HERE for the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest's latest closure map.
EAST FORK FIRE (5162 acres - 12 miles south of Trego, MT )
Up to 1/2 inch of rain fell overnight on the East Fork Fire, and the incident meteorologist anticipates another ½ to 1 inch of rain throughout the day. The temperature should be around 50 degrees.
On Tuesday, in anticipation of an incoming cold front, crews performed successful back burning operations on the north and south side of the fire to remove fuels between the fire and the mechanically created fireline. Ground crews spent time mopping up these areas before winds were anticipated to hit the fire Tuesday evening. These back burns along with some continued creeping in the interior of the fire are what has largely contributed to the increase in acreage, from (5106 acres to 5162 acres.) The line of thunderstorms on the leading edge of the cold front did not materialize and evening wind gusts were more moderate on the fire. Heavy rains moved over the fire around midnight.
With the wet weather, Wednesday's approach will focus on safety, rehabilitation and repair. All crews have been advised to use extra caution in the inclement weather and take into account falling tree hazards. The weather will be monitored closely and firefighters will look for breaks in the rain to remove downed trees and work on the line. This is another season slowing event and it will likely be 5-7 days before we see any real fire activity once the weather gets hot and dry again.
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.
RIVER ROAD EAST FIRE (17,227 acres - 6 miles due East of Plains)
The latest Pacific storm system brought showers and a few strong thunderstorms to the fire area Tuesday afternoon and evening. Gusty outflow winds, lightning and heavy rain accompanied the storms. In addition, moderate rain fell Tuesday night, totaling up to one-half inch, and showers will continue through Wednesday.
All active fire edges will see mainly creeping and smoldering in the heavy fuels and stump holes with an occasion torching tree. Little to no movement of the fire is expected while the cooler, wetter weather continues. Isolated areas of heat will continue to smoke and creep in the stumps and heavy dead and down fuels.
. As weather conditions allow, patrolling and mop up work will continue along the fire edge within the Highway 200 corridor near Paradise as well as along the boundary between the Lolo National Forest and CSKT. Crews are working to complete hand control line up the ridge toward the north flank of the fire south of Henry Creek. A heavy equipment task force is working to improve control line along the western side of the fire near Pat’s Knob on the southwest corner of the fire. Aerial water drops are being made when possible. Crews will continue to work on direct control line on the fire’s east flank, connecting completed line with the road and heavy equipment line. Following Monday's firing operations, firefighters will work along the control lines to extinguish heat and hold the control line.
RIDGE FIRE (3665 acres - 6 miles southeast of Hungry Horse)
In anticipation of last evening's strong cold front, firefighters worked to mitigate the risk of significant rainfall in areas disturbed by fire suppression work, including the construction of water bars on contingency lines west of the Ridge Fire. Water bars divert water drainage and reduce the likelihood of erosion. Crews worked on additional repair work near drop points on the west and north sides of the fire.
Last week, the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office rescinded the pre-evacuation notice from the east side of Spotted Bear Road to West Glacier. Visit the Flathead Sheriff’s office Facebook page for details.
DORIS POINT FIRE (1606 acres - 8 miles south of Hungry Horse)
Fire personnel observed three areas of smoke on the west side of the Doris Point Fire yesterday. The smoke was in areas surrounded by previously burned fuels and were not expected to spread. Structure protection remains in the Lost Johnny Point area.
TIN SOLDIER COMPLEX (8165 acres - 17 miles east of Swan Lake)
Resources observed smoke in the northeast and southeast corners of the Bruce fire on Tuesday. Mechanical thinning and repair work is almost complete along the road north of Spotted Bear. One small section of thinning will need to be completed by hand. Firefighting equipment is being collected and inventoried for removal from the area. Structure protection remains in place at Spotted Bear Ranger Station and private properties in that area.
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.
BOWLES CREEK FIRE (6988 acres - Near Skalkaho Pass)
The fire containment has increased to 28%. Due to limited fire activity, fire personnel are beginning to focus on rehabilitation to mitigate effects resulting from fire suppression activities. Crews were focusing on rehabilitating Sand Basin Road with heavy equipment ahead of the rain anticipated for Tuesday evening. Protection of wilderness study areas and roadless characteristics, surface erosion control, weed suppression, maintenance of forest improvements, and developed and undeveloped recreation sites are planned for the remainder of this week. Sitework will encompass previously built handlines and other contingency lines, safety zones, drop points, fueling locations, spike camps, heliwells, and helispots (both related to helicopter operations).
BIG KNIFE FIRE (7276 acres - 5 miles east of Arlee)
Rainfall and cooler temperatures with this latest storm system were expected to have a significant impact to any remaining heat and limit any fire growth and behavior in the next few days. There still is minimal fire within the interior and as the rain passes and fuels dry out, smoke, creeping, and smoldering is possible. Unless the fire flares up, there will be no more daily updates.
Heavy equipment crews are working to repair areas that were impacted over the course of the fire. Dozer lines are being naturalized. Crews are patrolling lines today to remove any miscellaneous materials left behind.
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.
COLT FIRE (7154 acres - 15 miles northwest of Seeley Lake)
Daily reporting from the Colt Fire ended last week. Containment is estimated at 93%. Some closures remain in effect, however. More information for closures is available HERE.
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.