Sheep Fire is 1 Mile from Essex

Highway 2 is open. Pilot cars will run 24 hours a day, but the highway could be closed due to changing fire conditions. Expect delays of 10-15 minutes.

The BNSF and Amtrak trains have been running. For more information on Amtrak call 1-(800) 872-7245.

U.S. Senators Tester and Daines and Congressman Zinke’s representative John Fuller attended the 6:00 pm briefing at the Incident Command Post in Coram. A public meeting was held at the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, MT on Sunday, Aug. 23 at 8:00 pm. Daines and Fuller both spoke in Essex as well. 

WEATHER:  The forecast calls for gusty W-SW winds up to 30 mph on ridgetops and low relative humidity, potentially increasing fire activity. If the forecast inversion lasts into the afternoon, this may moderate fire activity. Temperatures are on the increase through this coming week under an unusual high pressure, with highs predicted in the high 80’s in the valleys. Isolated dry thunderstorms are predicted to begin in the middle of the week.

The Thompson-Divide Complex’s Sheep Fire burns west of Highway 2 between Mile Markers 182 and 181 about 1 mile south of Essex, MT, Aug. 22, 2015. (photo Jonathan Moor)

The Sheep fire is the incident priority as it is approaching US Hwy. 2 and the BNSF railway and is threatening the community of Essex. Residents of Essex and the surrounding area have been advised that they may be evacuated if the Sheep Fire becomes an imminent threat.

Air operations continue today with two Type 1 helicopters, a Sky Crane and Chinook working on hot spots. A mobile fire retardant base is being used for helicopter bucket drops.

The Sheep Fire now covers 581 acres, and some 200 structures remain at risk, including many homes and cabins, and the Izaak Walton Inn. Yesterday  saw moderate fire activity with group torching. Increased fire activity is expected today with warmer, drier conditions. Crews are being transported across the river to the fire area on a BNSF work train. Crews will continue fuel break construction in the McDonald Creek Drainage to the north and create fireline from the railroad west up the Sheep Creek Drainage, supported by helicopters.

Goals are to keep this fire from going north towards Essex and moving into the transportation corridor along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. The night shift continues to monitor fire movement.

Firefighters wrapped the Challenge Cabin and outbuildings near the Thompson-Divide Complex’s Granite Fire burning the Flathead National Forest Aug. 21, 2015. (photo Karl Anderson)

The Granite Fire is west of Marias Pass and south of Hwy. 2, on 247 acres in the Great Bear Wilderness. It is burning in very steep terrain in a mixed conifer forest below a ridge. Crews have implemented structural protection measures on several backcountry cabins, trailhead structures, a wooden road bridge, and a radio repeater. Today crews will look for opportunities to create fireline using access on roads #1651 and #569 and check fire spread into the drainage to the north. The Granite Creek Trail (#156) is closed.

The Spruce Fire has been contained and controlled at 3 acres, about 5 miles south of U.S. 2 at Bear Creek in the Great Bear Wilderness. The fire was declared out yesterday at noon. The fire will go into monitoring status.

The Thompson Fire is now 16, 515 acres, located in a remote south-central backcountry area of Glacier National Park about 15 miles east of the West Glacier entrance in the Thompson and Nyack drainage and west of the Continental Divide. Crews achieved more containment (20%) yesterday and are close to finishing mop-up of all edges of the fire. Today a crew will be flown into the Nyack Creek Drainage and continue to mop up and control fireline as needed. The fire remains west of the Divide and poses no threat to communities around East Glacier and St. Mary. Crews are shifting into a monitoring status. They will leave their pumps and hose lay in place in case a future need arises.

Most of Glacier National Park is unaffected by this wildfire complex and is available for recreational use. Limited backcountry closures are in place. For more specific visitor information, please see the website