No Change Reported in Status of Rogers Pass, Sidney Fires
Here is the latest on the major fires burning in Montana, as of noon on Wednesday, August 9, 2023.
There has been no change reported in the status of the Sidney Fire, which is 12 miles south of East Glacier and 16-miles west of Heart Butte, in the northwest tip of the Pondera County panhandle. An IR flight conducted on Sunday (Aug. 6) showed the fire is 49 acres in size, and burning near footprints from fires in 2007 and 2017, which is aiding firefighters, since fuels in these footprints are less dense.
The following trails are currently closed due to fire activity:
- Trail 101 from the junction of 101 and 133.
- Trails 133, from Summit Trailhead, and Trail 133.1, from -Summit Campground, to where these 2 trails join Trail 137.
- Trail 134 from Forest Road 8958 to the junction with Trail 137.
- Trail 137 from the Trail 133/133.1 junction to the Trail 137/101 junction.
- TTrail 136 which runs between Trails 101 and 137.
ROGERS PASS FIRE
This lightning-caused fire, 15-miles east of Lincoln, received about an inch of rainfall over the weekend. As of Sunday evening, it was still 46 acres, and 50% contained. The Continental Divide Trail has been reopened.
Containment on the fire increased to 45 percent with the majority of added containment being on the southern edge. Crews continued construction of handline toward Sunset Ridge, improved the line constructed by heavy equipment along the ridge, and cleared brush along roads to improve firefighter access to the southern edge of the fire. Heavy equipment assisted crews with additional line construction on the southwest corner of the fire.
Crews will continue to “mop-up” the southern and northern edges of the fire, working east to west, in order to further increase containment in the coming days. On the northwestern side of the fire, heavy equipment will assist crews in creating line along the fire’s edge, carefully working around stands of whitebark pine in the area.
Air operations is using an unmanned aerial system (UAS “drone”) today to map out areas of heat on the north end of the fire. The UAS aircraft is best able to pick up areas of heat within the fire late at night and early in the morning due to lower air temperatures at these times. For this reason, the temporary flight restriction (TFR) for the fire area (FDC 3/7867) has been extended to a full 24-hour restriction. This restriction is necessary to provide a safe environment for firefighting aircraft operating in the area. If you fly, we can’t!
Light rain did fall over the fire area yesterday afternoon and more showers are expected this evening. Tonight’s storm is expected to bring gusty outflow winds up to 30 mph and is unlikely to result in a “wetting rain” that would dampen fire behavior. Beginning tomorrow, relative humidities will likely drop into the 30s with temperatures remaining near 80 degrees. This warm, dry weather paired with winds up to 30 mph increases the risk of the fire “spotting” outside its current perimeter. Single tree torching in the interior of the fire may also be more visible in the coming days.
The 2940-acre Ridge Fire is located 6 miles southeast of Hungry Horse, MT on the Hungry Horse Ranger District of the Flathead National Forest. The Ridge Fire is a full suppression fire and firefighters responded quickly using indirect tactics by creating fuel breaks along existing roads and natural features.
The fire remains active on all sides with most active fire behavior occurring on the south and east sides of the fire. It is currently spreading north towards Hungry Horse Mountain and is burning in steep terrain with heavy dead and down fuels. Firefighters have been creating fuel breaks
Hungry Horse Reservoir is CLOSED effective August 8th, 2023. To provide for public and firefighter safety, FS Road #38 (East Side Road #38) is closed to all public traffic east of the junction of FS Road #497 (Desert Mountain Road) and East Side Road #38. West Side South Fork Road #895 will be closed starting from the Hungry Horse Dam Visitor Center. The road will remain open approximately 800 feet south of the west abutment of Hungry Horse Dam to facilitate traffic flow. Preevacuation notice in effect for private property along SF Abbot Creek on the west side of the fire.
Threat of the fire reaching the communities of Martin City, Hungry Horse, and Coram remains low, as is the threat of the fire reaching communication sites on Desert Mountain as well as critical road infrastructure along Highway 2 and the East Side Reservoir Road (FS Road 38).
NIARADA FIRE & MILL POCKET FIRE
Firelines around the northern perimeter of the 20,365-acre Niarada Fire continue to hold, and the fire is now 25% contained. Crews on the fire’s northeastern perimeter along Cromwell Creek Road made progress mopping up. Heavy fuels and steep terrain continue hampering efforts along the fire’s eastern and southeastern edge. Therefore, firefighters are trying to tie pieces of line together using direct fireline construction, dozer lines, and indirect lines (which will likely require firing operations to secure). Firefighters rely on aircraft to cool hotspots and heavy fuels sufficiently, so direct fireline construction is feasible.
Structure protection crews continue to work outside Elmo towards Big Arm, and a night shift helps keep watch over changing conditions and fire behavior. Firefighters working the 2135-acre Mill Pocket Fire continue to improve constructed firelines, and aerial resources help cool hotspots in the steep, treacherous scree slopes along the fire’s northwestern edge. The fire is 35% contained, now.
MIDDLE RIDGE FIRE
West of Ronan, is still estimated at 12,700 acres, 12,700 acres, and is 75% contained, as of Wednesday, August 8th .Smoke may still be visible interior of the fire containment line where the fire is still smoldering.
HOLMES CREEK FIRE
The Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes Division of Fire reports the Holmes Creek Fire is 45 acres and 70% contained, burning in steep, rocky terrain on top of the Mission Mountain Range. Smokejumpers and heli-repellers have been working the fire.
BIG KNIFE FIRE
Weather in the vicinity of this 4864-acre blaze is becoming warmer and fuels are beginning to dry out again. Heavy equipment operators have completed a mastication line along the fire's southwestern edge to reduce available fuels and have been using existing road prisms to help extend and improve constructed firelines. Crews are mulching vegetation along Jocko Canyon and Canal roads, in the event firing operations are necessary to hold the fire south of Jocko River. Firefighters continue holding, improving, and mopping up the edge of a strategic firing operation they conducted last Friday and Saturday to keep the fire north of Agency Creek. Aircraft are aiding firefighters as conditions allow. Resource Advisors are working with fire managers to ensure cultural and natural resource values are evaluated and protected during suppression activities.
TIN SOLDIER COMPLEX
Hungry Horse Reservoir will be closed beginning August 8, 2023. All National Forest System lands in the area and FS Road #38 (East Side Road #38) and FS Road #895 (West Side South Fork Road #895) will be closed to public use for public and firefighter safety.
No IR flight was made last night, so the estimated size of The Tin Soldier Complex remains at 2,631 acres in size and remains 0% contained.
Current Acres burned as of the morning of August 8th.
- Bruce Fire – 993 acres at 0% containment
- Kah Mtn Fire – 407 acres at 0% containment
- Sullivan Fire – 1,208 acres at 0% containment
- Con Kelly Fire – 0.25 acres – Out.
Fire personnel continue structure protection efforts for the Spotted Bear Ranch, Diamond R Ranch and the Spotted Bear Ranger Station compound. Structure protection efforts for the Heinrude residential community began yesterday and will continue into today. Mechanical equipment was utilized to start establishing a fuel break to the south and reestablishing fuel breaks to the north end in the area around the community. Additionally, fire personnel began laying hose line and sprinklers around structures within the Heinrude community, which remains evacuated. Those efforts will continue into today. A crew will be flown to Spotted Bear Lookout today to start wrapping the lookout.
Today is forecasted to be partly cloudy with a chance of rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon. Temperatures will range in the upper 70s to lower 80s in the valleys with relative humidities around 35%. A cold front will be moving this afternoon which will bring with it westerly winds and gusts up to 40 mph on the ridgetops. This will likely lead to increases in fire behavior and growth. Incoming warm weather with possible gusty erratic winds will increase the chances of larger fuels burning (between 3 inches and 8 inches in diameter) as the dryness of these fuels remain near record lows.
EAST FORK FIRE
Lightning is also to blame for this 1376-acre fire, burning in heavy timber & subalpine fir approximately 12 miles south of Trego, MT.
There is now indirect containment line around the entire fire, including direct line in some areas, but the fire is only considered 15% contained. On the east flank of the fire, dozers are being utilized to go more direct with the control line. Crews are also utilizing skidgens and hose lays to secure the edge of the fire. Indirect and contingency lines continue to be strengthened as crews look at more opportunities to go direct and continue mopping up.
A 7.5 acre spot fire did occur a few days ago, but resources have direct line around the spot, and that line is holding..
GRAVEL PIT FIRE
The human-caused Gravel Pit Fire is burning in heavy fuels on 304-acres, a mix of private and federal land located along Highway 2 near Houghton Creak and McGinnis Meadows Roads. It is 25% contained, as of Wednesday, August 9th.
To the north of the fire, hand crewscontinue to improve dozer line and mop up heat sources. Mop-up activities are focused on finding and extinguishing hot spots on the fire’s interior to secure the fireline. Crews are also improving an area to serve as a helicopter landing zone, for equipment transport and potential medical evacuations. Helicopters are on standby for water bucket drops should fire activity increase, aiding in cooling hot spots and facilitating safe crew operations along the fire’s edge. On the east flank of the fire, crews are mopping up and patrolling to insure that the fire stays east of the 76 road. Spot fires and lightning-induced starts are a primary concern. Engines will provide initial attack and suppress new fire starts across the fire area.
Fire behavior is low right now, but potential exists for more active fire behavior with the drying weather pattern in coming days.
An evacuation warning will remain in place for residents near the fire area along the Highway 2 corridor. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office has notified these residents.
STADIUM CREEK FIRE
The Stadium Creek Fire is burning on an east-facing slope in the Stadium Creek drainage between Gorge and Cannon Creeks; located within the Bob Marshall Wilderness on the Spotted Bear Ranger District. It was estimated at 50 acres as of the morning of 8/4/2023. The Spotted Bear Ranger District will continue to monitor the fire and implement point protection strategies to any values at risk as necessary.
BOWLES CREEK FIRE
Crews along the western edge of the 3559-acre fire east of Hamilton continue to extend handlines and fuel breaks into existing fuel treatment areas. Crews along the eastern edge of the fire have laid almost 10,000 feet of hose and continue constructing fire lines. Crews continue to remove understory fuels in the Crystal Creek area. Crews on both sides will continue scouting for more areas to treat and establish more containment opportunities, especially in the south and west portions of the area.
The forecast calls for a slight change in the weather over the next few days, with a chance of light rain during the afternoon and evening hours today and tomorrow. Temperatures in the mid 60s with increased wind gusts, will significantly reduce the moisture content in available fuels.