Evacuation Lifted for Heinrude Community; Hungry Horse Reservoir Still Closed
Cool, wet weather continued Wednesday. A a half-inch to 2" of rainfall has been reported over the past 24 hours in the neighborhood of northwestern Montana wildfires, and while it helped settle the fires themselves, firefighters are now having to deal with muddy forest roads and the danger of falling trees.
The evacuation order for the Heinrude Community has been lifted as of 9am this morning, but the Hungry Horse Reservoir area remains closed. Visit the Flathead Sheriff’s office Facebook page for details.
PRYOR CREEK ROAD FIRE - (2372 acres - 25miles south of Billings)
Firefighters continue to work on the Pryor Creek Rd fire, which broke out Tuesday in a harvest field south of Billings. Reports on the BIA Forestry/Wildland Fire Management Crow Agency Facebook page said the fire quieted Tuesday night, after strong winds settled down, allowing aircraft to drop water and fire retardant.
An early afternoon helicopter flight mapped the fire at 2,372 acres officially. However, about 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, the wind picked up again, gusting over 50 mph, stirring smoldering embers, and pushing 10-foot tall flames more than a mile to the east into short-grass ranchland, where a line of fire retardant was able to stop its advance. Firefighters were able to quickly surround a couple of 20-30 acre spot fires.
Today's weather forecast for the Billings area calls for lighter winds with temperatures reaching the high 80s. Firefighters plan spend the day extinguishing embers in sagebrush roots, cow patties, and thicker fuels in coulees.
RIDGE FIRE (3665 acres - 6 miles southeast of Hungry Horse)
As of 9 am this morning, the mandatory evacuation order for the Heinrude Community has been rescinded. The closure order for the Hungry Horse Reservoir still remains in place and residents of the Heinrude Community need to contact the Hungry Horse Ranger Station to make arrangements to access their properties. Recent precipitation has limited fire activity to smoldering on all fires and the rainfall has slowed repair work.
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 on Tuesday. The smoke was in areas surrounded by previously burned fuels and were not expected to spread, especially with the expected rainfall. Structure protection remains in the Lost Johnny Point area.
TIN SOLDIER COMPLEX (8165 acres - 17 miles east of Swan Lake)
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.
EAST FORK FIRE (5162 acres - 12 miles south of Trego, MT )
Steady rain on Wednesday restricted fire suppression work on the East Fork Fire. Crews were limited to patrolling roads in the fire area for possible hot spots and trees that may have fallen across the fireline and/or access roads. The rain event was of sufficient duration and amount (2") that fire behavior will be greatly reduced. According to Fire Behavior Analyst Eric Tremble, fuels have now become so moist that active fire is not likely for at least the next five days.
Crews are facing challenges today such as slippery, wet roads and weakened, dangerous trees. As firefighters are able, they will construct fireline close to burned areas and remove unstable trees. Care will continue to be taken to protect roads and streams, which may be vulnerable to damage from recent rains.
Pre-Evacuation Warnings that had been in effect have now been lifted. For more information, go to the Sheriff’s Department website.
RIVER ROAD EAST FIRE (17,227 acres - 6 miles due East of Plains)
The weather and road conditions will determine the plan of work for today following steady rain received overnight. Approximately ½ inch of rain fell on the fire area which will help with suppression efforts. Engine crews will monitor and patrol the Highway 200 corridor near Paradise. Crews will patrol and mop up along the northern, western and eastern control lines as well. If conditions allow, crews will continue constructing control line off the southwestern corner near Sheep Creek, moving west toward the Clark Fork River. Low cloud cover and forecasted rain could prevent helicopters from being used today.
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.
Trails in the area remain closed. CLICK HERE for the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest's latest closure map.
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.
BIG KNIFE FIRE (7276 acres - 5 miles east of Arlee)
Rainfall (0.8" anticipated) 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.