Rain leftover from Hurricane Hilary made its way into western Montana Sunday and Monday, providing welcome assistance for firefighters working to contain the several large wildfires burning there.

RIVER ROAD EAST FIRE (16,790 acres - 6 miles due East of Plains)

Rainfall totals over the fire averaged 0.15-0.30 inches with localized amounts up to one-half inch. Highways 200 and 135 are currently open, but closures still could occur as the fire continues to burn along the highways.

The late afternoon infrared flight on Sunday mapped the fire at approximately 16,790 acres in size, an increase of 3,376 acres from Saturday. The smoke lifted enough for aircraft to conduct additional retardant drops to protect the Pat’s Knob Lookout and communications site.

 Crews will secure and mop up control lines built to protect structures in Paradise and the Highway 200 corridor. In addition, fire crews will continue to work on control lines both north and south of the river and in the Highway 200 corridor to keep holding the fire as it moves to the north on both sides. Fire personnel will construct both indirect and direct lines in locations with the greatest opportunity for success on the north and east sides of the fire. On the southeast side, firefighters will look for access routes and potential locations for indirect control lines. On the southwest side of the fire control lines will be reinforced to protect the Pat’s Knob Lookout and communication infrastructure site if needed. Opportunities for indirect control lines are also being explored along the western side of the fire.

The long-term fire suppression plan continues to be developed including identifying actions needed, risk to responders, and probability of success to accomplish fire containment. Aircraft will be utilized for fire suppression as weather and smoke conditions safely allow.

Evacuations are still effect McLaughin Creek. The Montana Red Cross has opened a shelter at the Church on the Move in Plains.

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

The National Weather Service station at Deep Creek (SE of East Glacier), reported 1.18" of rain in the past 24 hours, which has to be good news for firefighters. As of Monday evening, the Sidney Fire was still listed at 198 acres.

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)

Rain fell across the Ridge, Doris Point, and Tin Soldier Fires yesterday aiding firefighters by moderating the fire activity.

Yesterday, crews on the western and northern area of the fire continued to address areas of heat, mop up, and back hauled excess equipment. Drop points in these areas were cleaned up and crews are preparing for more rain. On the northeastern edge, firefighters monitored yesterday’s spot fires and the control lines around them and worked areas of heat. Heavy equipment will be constructing indirect line through dense vegetation. To the southeast, mop up continued. Today, crews will continue mop up activities and install control lines where appropriate to prevent fire spread to the north and east. Aviation will be utilized if the weather and winds allow.

The Hungry Horse Reservoir is 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.

The Flathead County Sheriff’s Office has 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 (1534 acres - 8 miles south of Hungry Horse)

Crews are maintaining confinement, and point protection strategy on the values at risk in coordination with the Flathead National Forest. Crews will continue fuels reduction, structural prep, setting up pumps, sprinklers, and wrapping structures and signs.

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

Yesterday, crews held and secured Meadow Creek Road. Crews will maintain point protection strategy on the values at risk in coordination with the Flathead National Forest. Crews will continue fuels reduction and structural prep, setting up pumps, sprinklers, and wrapping structures and signs.

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 (6414 acres - 12 miles south of Trego, MT )

Approximately ½ inch of rain fell overnight. Because of the reduced fire behavior, crews have an opportunity to work toward building a continuous fireline across the northern edge of the fire.  On the eastern part of the East Fork Fire, heavy equipment will be used to open up roads.  Burned and/or weakened trees will be removed to improve firefighter safety and to keep roads open for future actions.

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.

A public meeting is scheduled for 7:30 PM this evening (Aug 22) at the Olney-Bissell School.

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

Throughout the Colt Fire area, an average of ¾ inch rain fell yesterday, thanks to Hurricane Hilary. Patrol and monitoring are ongoing. In anticipation of higher containment, suppression repair and rehabilitation plans are continuing. Mop-up operations will continue as weather permits.

Forest Service closures are still in effect around the fire area. 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.

Heavy equipment and hand crews continued suppression repair Monday but rain and deteriorating conditions made progress difficult. Crews, road graders, bulldozers and excavators will continue to repair and rehab areas that were impacted in efforts to stop the fire’s spread. These suppression repair efforts include chipping or stacking limbs and brush that was cut to widen roads, rehabbing and covering dozer lines, and grading roads among other things in order to leave the sight as naturalized. There is an estimated 7-10 days of work left and CSKT Division of Fire personnel will take command of the operation Thursday morning.

Control lines have been tested through high wind and extreme heat with no threat of escape remaining. That said, there still is minimal fire within the interior of the fire’s footprint and as the rain passes and fuels dry out, the sight of smoke and possible small, creeping fire is likely. It will take a season-ending event such as snow to truly put these fires out for good.

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

BIG KNIFE FIRE (7250 acres - 5 miles east of Arlee)

Active fire remains in tighter canopies where rain is unable to reach the ground. On the north edge of the fire along S. Canal Road, firefighters continue to hold and improve containment lines. On the south end of the fire in the Agency Creek drainage, crews pulled up the hose lays and are patrolling and cooling hot spots within the fire perimeter. Near Jocko Lookout, the fire was creeping and smoldering, and rains wet the area. Crews will be completing a power line assessment.

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.


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