Sidney Fire Grows, Niaranda & Mill Pocket Fires Nearing Containment
Information has been hard to come by for this lightning-caused fire burning in the Sidney Creek drainage on the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest 16 miles west of Heart Butte, in the northwest tip of the Pondera County panhandle. An IR flight conducted Wednesday shows the fire has expanded to 198 acres. Helicopter water drops are being used to deal with spot fires, and keep it west of the South Fork Two Medicine River.
As of August 17, 2023, the following trails are temporarily closed due to fire activity (closure order #01-15-01-23-25):
- Trail 101 from the intersection of Trail 119 and Trail 101 to 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 101.
- Trail 134 from the junction of Trail 134 and Trail 137 to the junction of Trail 134 and Road 8958.
- Trail 101.1a between the junctions of Trail 101.1a and Trail 101.
- Trail 101.1b between the junctions of Trail 101.1b and Trail 101.
- Trail 103 from the junction of Trail 103 and Trail 101 to the junction of Trail 103 and Trail 142.
- Trail 103.1.
- Trail 103.2 from the junction of Trail 103.2 and Trail 144 to the junction of Trail 103.2 and Trail 103.
- Trail 136 from the junction of Trail 136 and Trail 101 to the junction of Trail 136 and Trail 137.
- Trail 137 from the junction of Trail 136 and Trail 137 to the junction of Trail 137 and Trail 101.
- Trail 144 from the junction of Trail 144 and Trail 103 to the junction of Trail 144 and Trail 104.
- Trail 141 from the junction of Trail 141 and Trail 103 to the junction of Trail 144 and Trail 103.
- Trail 142 from the junction of Trail 103 and Trail 142 to Trail 141.
- Trail 102 from the junction of Trail 102 and Trail 101 to the junction of Trail 102 and Trail 170.
- Trail 102A.
- Trail 170 from the junction of Trail 170 and Trail 101 to the junction of Trail 170 and Trail 102.
- Trail 140 from the junction of Trail 140 and Trail 170 to the junction of Trail 140 and Trail 181.
- Trail 181 from the junction of Trail 181 and Trail 140 to the junction of Trail 181 and Trail 170.
- Trail 119.
Visit: Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest - Home (usda.gov) to view the closure order and map.
Visit: Trail Conditions within the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex (arcgis.com) to view an interactive map of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex that shows closures and trail status. This website is maintained as a partnership between the Forest Service and Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation.
RIDGE FIRE & DORIS PEAK FIRE
Increased hot, dry, and windy weather yesterday led to increased fire activity, and winds are expected to be stronger today. Smoke conditions cleared mid-day, Thursday, allowing water-dropping helicopters to work with ground forces to maintain control lines. Today crews will continue to mop up and hold the western and northern divisions. As work is completed there, resources are moving to the east side, where firefighters continue to directly attack the fire, supported by aviation, while scouting for opportunities to build indirect and contingency fire lines.
The Doris Point fire due to more accurate mapping is currently 597 acres. Fire personnel and Flathead National Forest have completed structure wrap and placing sprinklers to protect campgrounds and boat docks. Fire personnel continue to maintain confinement, containment, and point protection strategy in coordination with the Flathead National Forest.
The Tin Soldier Fire includes the Sullivan (Sullivan and Kah fires combined on Wednesday, Aug 16) and Bruce Fires. Today’s actions will focus on continuing to improve structure protection efforts for the commercial guest ranches, Spotted Bear Ranger Station compound, Heinrude residential community, and other infrastructure in the area. Crews will continue fuels reduction, daily testing and pre-treatment with the sprinkler systems and water pumps for identified values at risk and conducting additional tactical firing operations as necessary.
Estimated acres burned as of Friday, August 18th.
- Bruce Fire – 3,558 acres at 0% containment
- Sullivan Fire – 3,408 acres at 0% containment
- Con Kelly Fire – 0.25 acres – Out.
- Kah Mountain Fire - combined with Sullivan Fire as of 08/16/2023
The reported acreage has decreased slightly, to 7,154 acres, as ground crews were able to assess the true perimeter more accurately than was possible through aerial observations. There was limited fire activity on the southern portion of the fire, allowing crews to strengthen fire lines. Crews on the north and east edges continue their mop-up efforts and pull hose from sections of the fire line where it is no longer needed.
Lake Alva Campground, Lake Inez Campground, and Rainy Lake Campground remain closed at this time due to firefighter activity in the area. Specific closure information can be found HERE..
BOWLES CREEK FIRE
The Bowles Creek Fire has increased to 6,847 acres. This increase includes fire growth from the last two days, as fire managers were able to map the fire with an IR flight late last night. The fire remains very active on the northeast perimeter and is approaching areas that may affect Hwy 38, Skalkaho Road. Travelers wishing to travel Hwy 38 are urged to check for updates to ensure the road remains open. Updated information can be found on the incident Facebook page. In the event Hwy 38 is temporarily impacted by fire activity, an announcement will be made. While the road remains open, motorists should drive with extreme caution due to smoke impacts, as well as the increased presence of fire personnel on the road. The fire also spread on the south perimeter across Railroad Creek.
The fire was very active yesterday and may continue to increase today. Firefighters observed flanking, group tree torching, and spotting. Fire crews continue to construct fuel breaks along several roads and other values at risk. Fire officials continue to monitor fire spread and fire behavior. Firefighters are utilizing firing operations to strengthen containment lines. Fire crews also continue installation of sprinklers to protect values at risk and have also increased road patrols to better monitor spotting and spreading.
EAST FORK FIRE
The East Fork fire experienced growth due to high temperatures, low humidities and winds to approximately 3,000 acres overnight and early today. Kootenai and Flathead National Forest managers have requested a Complex Incident Management team to come support the incident with a surge of operational resources and oversight to be in place for 8/18, and assume full command on 8/19. Lincoln and Flathead Counties, Montana Department of Natural Resources, Bonneville Power, Montana Department of Transportation, and Burlington Northern Railroad cooperators have been engaged to provide information and their involvement in any actions necessary to protect structures and infrastructure, including emergency actions for public safety.
Meanwhile, continued holding and mop-up actions are still occurring on the west and south sides of the fire to protect values at risk and to contain the fire. Pre-evacuation notices are being initiated for residents in the potential fire path by Flathead and Lincoln County Sheriffs Departments.
Predicted weather will change to more favorable conditions on Sunday.
NIARADA FIRE & MILL POCKET FIRE
Firefighters continued to build containment on the east side of the 20,365 acre Niarada Fire from Spine Road south and are working to connect firelines, string hose lays and mop up what few hot spots remain as they brace for critical fire weather today. Crews will be assessing lines to ensure they hold and douse any residual heat that might threaten the line.
What little open line remains is limited to the southern portion of the fire perimeter. Crews have reported isolated heat since Monday’s strategic firing operations added several hundred feet of depth to the line in that area. The remainder of the fire as well as the 1,869 acre Mill Pocket Fire is being watched closely to ensure nothing escapes containment with firefighters mopping up where needed and working on suppression repair.
Structure protection crews remain outside Elmo near Big Arm, testing sprinkler systems and pumps while working with landowners on additional vegetation management around structures.
A CSKT Type 3 Incident Management Team took command of these fires Wednesday and has retained the majority of assigned crews and equipment to ensure there are sufficient personnel for the tasks that remain.
BIG KNIFE FIRE
The fire spread yesterday on the east side of the fire further into the primitive area resulting in a growth of 683 acres, to .6275 acres.
On the north edge of the fire, along Canal Road, crews are mitigating hazards and removing snags inside the fire perimeter at least a tree length from the line. On the south end of the fire in the Agency Creek drainage, crews will patrol and monitor fire activity. With pumps and hoses in place, they will continue to work on hotspots within the perimeter. On the east side of the fire near Jocko Lookout, crews will continue monitoring the pumps and sprinkler systems and monitoring the fire growth in the primitive area.
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.