More Rain = More Progress for Firefighters Over Labor Day Weekend
Today's weather forecast includes a whispered mention of the slight chance of a dry thunderstorm later today...perhaps Mother Nature's gentle reminder that Montana's 2023 wildfire season is far from over, despite a third round of rain over the weekend.
Daily reports through Inciweb, the Interagency wildfire information website, have ended for several of the large fire that have been burning since late July and early August in western Montana, the Ridge Fire, Doris Point and Tin Soldier Complex Fires, which forces the closure of Hungry Horse Reservoir for several weeks.
Hungry Horse Reservoir was reopened just in time for the Labor Day weekend.
Here is the latest information available:
RIDGE FIRE (3665 acres - 6 miles southeast of Hungry Horse)
The fires affecting the Hungry Horse area received total rainfall ranging from 0.76 inches at Spotted Bear ranger station to 1.72 inches at camp in Hungry Horse. The highest amount recorded was 1.89 inches from the temporary remote weather station located on top of Firefighter mountain near Ridge fire. The fire continues to smolder.
Crews plan to spend the day completing suppression repair where practical and safe to do so.
The east side road of Hungry Horse Reservoir (National Forest System Road 38) is now open to public travel along the entire east shore to Spotted Bear Ranger Station. The Hungry Horse Reservoir is open for boating and the east shore and islands are open to dispersed camping. The west side road (National Forest System Road 895) is open to the Doris Point Boat Launch, allowing watercraft access to the reservoir from that popular site.
NFS Road 895 remains closed south of the Doris Point Boat Launch due to the Tin Soldier and Doris Point Fires. An area closure for the Ridge Fire is also still in effect and includes the Desert Mountain Road (National Forest System Road 497) and Emery Creek Road (National Forest System Road 546). Emery Bay Campground, however, will be open and available for reservations.
DORIS POINT FIRE (1606 acres - 8 miles south of Hungry Horse)
While portions of the fire continue to smolder, crews hope to spend the day evaluating the ability and necessity of implementing additional actions to improve safety to the public in preparation for the rescinding of the remaining closure orders.
NFS Road 895 (West Side South Fork Road) is now open to the Doris Point Boat Launch to allow access to the reservoir. NFS Road 895 is closed south of the Doris Point Boat Launch. All roads and trails within the closure are closed to the public.
TIN SOLDIER FIRE (8165 acres - 17 miles east of Swan Lake)
Personnel and equipment are grading the road around Spotted Bear Ranger Station. Crews are repairing handline and cleaning up vegetative debris from mechanical thinning.
The area still closed due to the Tin Soldier Fire encompasses the west side of the Hungry Horse Reservoir from the Doris Point Boat Launch on NFS Road 895 on the north end to the Wilderness boundary on the south end, and from the Swan Mountain ridgeline down to the reservoir, excluding the Jewel Basin Hiking Area.
EAST FORK FIRE (5162 acres - 12 miles south of Trego, MT )
Light precipitation occurred over the fire. In areas where rain doesn’t penetrate the tree canopy, the precipitation is not enough to completely extinguish the creeping and smoldering fire in heavy fuels and the thick layers of duff (vegetative matter that covers the forest floor). Fire activity has posed very little threat to containment lines over the last several days. Live fuels are not currently contributing to fire behavior or potential due to their higher moisture levels.
Mop-up and patrol of residual heat will continue along the edges of the fire. Crews have started removing unnecessary equipment from some areas. Firefighters and heavy equipment are implementing the fire suppression repair plan, improving damaged road surfaces to pre-fire conditions.
Pre-Evacuation Warnings that had been in effect have now been lifted. For more information, go to the Sheriff’s Department website.
Watch for increased fire traffic. As equipment is moving off the fire line and demobilizing back to home units, you may notice trucks and other heavy equipment on Highway 93. Large trucks and heavy equipment are still active on the roads south of Trego, and roads remain closed for public and firefighter safety.
RIVER ROAD EAST FIRE (17,310 acres - 6 miles due East of Plains)
Approximately 0.2” of rain fell across the fire area on Sunday. No fire activity was observed on the fire's north containment lines near Henry's Creek and Henry's Peak. The eastern line along the forest and CSKT boundary also had no fire activity. Crews located and eliminated several hotspots on the southeast corner of the fire. Firefighters patrolled the fire's northwest perimeter. Crews continued chipping vegetation removed while constructing a shaded fuel break north of Pat’s Knob. On the southwest corner of the fire, crews continued constructing an indirect fuels break and looked for hot spots along the fire’s edge.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has a closure in place on segments of the Flathead River and Clark Fork River within and near the River Road East Fire area. Details can be found HERE.
The Lolo National Forest has an emergency closure of roads and trails for public and firefighter safety. For a complete listing of the closed roads & trails, click HERE.
COAL RIDGE FIRE ( 1200 acres - 5 miles north of Stafford Ferry)
No new growth occurred on the fire, in Blaine County, Montana on Friday, Sept. 1, with containment of the 1,200-acre fire estimated at 60 percent.
PRYOR CREEK ROAD FIRE - (2972 acres - 25miles south of Billings)
Wednesday afternoon's wind-driven flare up added another 600 acres to the fire's footprint, which would make it 2972-acres. Mop-up activities continue today.
To see some awesome photos (as in "Holy Cow, that was CLOSE!"), see the BIA Crow Agency Fire Department Facebook page.
SIDNEY FIRE (228 acres - 16 miles west of Heart Butte)
As of September 1, the fire is still estimated to be around 228 acres. The fire is currently smoldering and creeping in timber on the west side of the South Fork Two Medicine River with minimal fire behavior and growth during the past two weeks.
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)
Fire crews will be present along Hwy 38, Skalkaho Road, as fire suppression repair work along firelines, roads, trails, safety zones, and drop points continues. This work involves immediate post-fire actions taken to minimize environmental impacts resulting from fire suppression activities.
The fire completion has increased to 32%. Due to limited fire activity, fire personnel are beginning to focus on suppression repair to mitigate adverse resource effects resulting from fire suppression activities. Firefighters will continue to patrol and monitor existing fire line and fire perimeter.
BIG KNIFE FIRE (7276 acres - 5 miles east of Arlee)
Daily reports have ended, with the last report showing 17% containment.
COLT FIRE (7154 acres - 15 miles northwest of Seeley Lake)
The Colt Fire is 100% contained.
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.