Overall, it seems to have been a good weekend for firefighters in western Montana, with little to no growth reported on most fires.  A mapping flight showed some growth on the Sidney Fire west of Heart Butte since the previous flight a week ago, and the East Fork Fire added 500 acres, but those were the only significant expansions reported. Here are the latest reports for each of the major fires:

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, which means it grew by 30 acres in about a week's time.  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 week.  No spot fires have been observed since last week.

A fire crew is on the ground with support from one helicopter. The helicopter will continue support by shuttling crews and is available for water drops from the nearby South Fork Two Medicine River if fire activity picks up. Firefighters also have permission from the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council to use water from Dog Gun Lake on the  Reservation if they need it. The goal is to keep the fire from crossing the river.

Trails in the area remain closed. CLICK HERE for the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest's latest closure map.

RIVER ROAD EAST FIRE (17,115 acres - 6 miles due East of Plains)

The good news is, the River Road East Fire gained only 15 acres over the weekend, while containment has risen to 14%.

Smoke from the fire’s northwest corner was visible from Plains yesterday as fire crews conducted a limited firing operation north of Pat’s Knob. This operation’s intent is to aid in securing the control line by removing unburnt vegetation in advance of the fire’s active fire edge. Additional firing operations are planned for today on a small triangle section just north of the fire upslope and west of River Road East. Smoke from this area will also be visible from Plains today.
Yesterday, crews continued to improve control line on the north side of the fire both west and east of Henry’s Peak. Crews continued to work on direct control line on the fire’s east flank which is along the Lolo National Forest and CSKT boundary. On the southeast corner, firefighters and equipment completed the indirect control line near the forest and CSKT boundary south to the Flathead River. Patrolling and mop up work continued along the fire edge within the Highway 200 corridor near Paradise. A heavy equipment task force improved the shaded fuels break line along the western side of the fire near Pat’s Knob. Helicopters were utilized for water drops in key areas to reduce heat and extinguish fire. Firing operations were completed near the northwest corner of the fire and the night shift monitored that area to keep it secure.
Another day of hot and dry conditions will lead to increased smoke visible from interior locations on the fire. Crews will work on connecting control lines along the northern edge of the fire near Henry’s Peak. There are some areas of the fire’s edge along the eastern side where crews will continue to keep working on control line construction and strengthening along the National Forest and CSKT boundary. Within a large unburned island on the east side, control line construction will continue working towards the southeast.
There is a pocket of heat on the south side of the fire along the Flathead River that will be monitored and cooled with helicopter water buckets if needed. Control line construction will progress on the southwest corner of the fire south of Pat’s Knob. Engine crews will patrol the Highway 200 corridor control lines near Paradise to make sure they are secure.
A burning operation is planned on the fire’s northwest edge, west of the River Road East about 3 miles south of Plains to secure that edge of the fire. Smoke from the firing operations will be visible from the Highway 200 corridor.
A section of the Flathead River at Perma Bridge to the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes boundary is closed for the safety of fishermen and recreationalists due to the River Road East Fire. The boat ramp at Perma Bridge is still open and boaters can go east, upstream. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Restrictions and Closures: HERE
The Lolo National Forest has an emergency closure of some roads and trails. For a complete listing of the closed roads & trails click HERE.

RIDGE FIRE  (3665 acres - 6 miles southeast of Hungry Horse)

The Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) flight on Saturday saw very little heat on the Ridge Fire. Firefighters will continue to monitor and patrol for any potential heat. Equipment, such as hose lays and pumps, have been removed from areas showing no fire activity. Crews continue with repair work on areas impacted by fire suppression activities. The fire is listed as 76% contained.

Last week, the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office 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 (1587 acres - 8 miles south of Hungry Horse)

Doris Point had a slight increase in fire activity on Saturday, and added two acres to its estimated size. It is 58% contained. Hot spots inside the perimeter of the fire and some creeping on the west side were observed. This fire behavior is not impacting any areas of concern. The UAS group plans to fly over Doris Point today and will provide a clearer picture of hot spot locations. Today’s activities will encompass more patrolling and snag removal. Backhaul of firefighting equipment that is no longer needed has also begun.

TIN SOLDIER COMPLEX (8165 acres - 17 miles east of Swan Lake)

There was no spread reported over the weekend in any of the fires in the Tin Soldier Complex.

Creeping fire behavior is expected to increase on the Bruce fire with the rise in temperature. Personnel are maintaining pump operations around structures and other values at risk. Mechanical thinning is ongoing with the goal of completion of the project at Soldier Creek. Monitoring of the Sullivan fire continues, little or no heat has been identified in the last few days.

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 (5106 acres - 12 miles south of Trego, MT )

The East Fork Fire has grown by just under 500 acres over the past 72 hours. The mosaic pattern of the burn is due to the steep terrain and dense, old growth forest punctuated by newer growth in plantations (areas where trees have been harvested and replanted). This combination of factors meant that firefighters resorted to various tactics and tools to build containment lines. Heavy equipment such as skidgensfeller bunchers and dozers made rough fire lines in accessible areas. These areas were cleaned of felled vegetation to more reliably contain an advancing fire.

Hot Shot and hand crews cut trees, dug handlines and laid miles of hose in harder to reach areas. Helicopters dropped water on hot spots to cool them in support of ground forces. Teams successfully used low intensity fire in back burns on the north side of the fire to remove fuels from areas between the established fireline and the fire itself.

For the next 4 to 5 days, night operations will remove brush and trees from the mechanically created breaks. Crews will continue current operations to scout and build contingency lines to the east and northeast to further protect the Hwy 93 corridor, homes and the Labeau Research Natural Area.

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.

BOWLES CREEK FIRE (6988 acres - Near Skalkaho Pass)

Fire crews remain present along Hwy 38, Skalkaho Road. Motorists traveling in the area should be aware of increased traffic and fire operations.

The Bowles Creek Fire gained only 3 acres over the weekend, and containment remains at 23%. Fire personnel continue to work on confinement and point zone protection to protect values at risk. Structure protection assessments are completed; however, fire personnel are present to mitigate any future fire risk. Firefighters continue to construct fuel breaks and monitor fire behavior and improve fireline as needed.

BIG KNIFE FIRE (7275 acres - 5 miles east of Arlee)


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)

The last daily report for the Colt Fire was issued last Thursday. At that time, the fire was 63% contained, and while some firefighters remain on scene to mop up and patrol firelines, some crews and equipment have been removed from the scene.

The Lolo National Forest has lifted the closure of the Rainy Lake Campground, Alva Lake Campground and their access roads.  All other Forest closures remain in place, including Lakeside Campground. 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.

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

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