Montana Wildfire Roundup For July 20, 2017

Jul 20, 2017

At the helicopter base for the Sliderock Fire on the Lolo National Forest Wednesday
Credit InciWeb

Updated 12:53 am

The Monahan Fire on the Lolo National Forest in the Seeley Lake District has moved onto the Flathead National Forest in the Southern Spotted Bear Ranger District. The fire is predicted at 175 acres, with just a few of those acres on the Flathead National Forest. This is a high elevation fire, managed for fire to play its natural role. Trails are closed at Limestone Pass and Blackfoot Divide.

The Emery Ridge Fire, also on the Lolo National Forest, is contained, and the Moose Creek Fire is controlled. Both were caused by lightning.

Updated 11:10 am 

A new fire east of Deer Lodge on the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, called the Limburger, was sparked by lightning. Its estimated size is 75 acres.

The Limburger Fire is burning in heavy, dense snag patches of timber west of Kading Cabin on the Helena Ranger District. Smoke will be visible throughout the day from various locations. No structures are threatened at this time.While firefighters hiked into the fire last night, three air tankers and two helicopters assisted suppression efforts by dropping retardant and water on the fire to help minimize fire spread. Upon arrival, firefighters began a full suppression activities—including fuel removal and fireline construction.

Today, firefighters will continue that suppression work, with the assistance of air resources. Additional firefighters and other resources have been ordered and are anticipated to arrive over the next couple of days.

Kading Campground is closed due to the fire resources and equipment that are staging there.

There is a Red Flag Warning today for sustained winds of 10-15 mph with gusts that could reach up to 25 mph. Temperatures at ridgetops will be in the 80s with low relative humidity levels.

The Arrastra Creek Fire six miles northwest of Lincoln was sparked by lightning and was identified early yesterday morning. Its estimated size is 77 acres. 

A 30 person initial attack crew was dispatched immediately and nearly had the emerging fire surrounded by fireline by early afternoon. yesterday’s low relative humidity resulted in very active fire behavior with short duration crown runs, group torching, and short-range spotting through the heavy timber.

Due to increased fire activity and the number of snags in the area, the decision was made to disengage ground resources. A helicopter dropped buckets of water on the fire for most of the afternoon. In addition, aerial retardant was dropped on the fire area to slow the fire’s growth.

A red flag warning has been issued by the National Weather Service to begin at noon and continue through Friday evening. A weak dry cold front coming in from the west is predicted to arrive this evening. Winds are expected initially from the southwest, turning to westerly with gusts up to 40 miles per hour on the ridgetops. Low relative humidity will remain the norm.

There are spotting concerns today with the predicted winds. Steep rugged terrain, large dead fuels and numerous snags are the primary safety concerns.

Nearby, the Park Creeek Fire continued to be active in the large dead and downed logs with short duration crown runs through pockets of bug-killed trees. Structure protection was completed on the Stonewall Mountain Lookout.

Today crews and heavy equipment (feller-bunchers and skidders) will extend the fuel break along the forest boundary to the west, establishing a barrier to surface fire spread along the DNRC and private lands.

The fire is expected to continue to burn actively in the head of Park Creek, advancing to the northeast.

Also in Lewis and Clark County, the Lookout Fire is estimated at 390 acres and 90 percent containment.

Fire managers say The spread potential for the Lookout  is moderate-low. If thunderstorms develop, outflow winds can cause short range spotting and increased rates of spread. A weak cold front will impact the area Thursday night and cause increased wind speeds and possible increase in fire behavior.

Fuels available to burn are still green but are expected to dry and cure in the coming week.

On the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest, the Whetstone Ridge and Meyers Fires became active late yesterday afternoon. Helicopters dropped buckets of water to help cool down some of the hottest areas on the fires. 

The Whetstone Ridge Fireactively burned to the north and east. Crews are working on the north and west sides of the fire and also on the south end to establish a line around those areas of the fire. Explosives, to help build a line were utilized this morning.

The Meyers Fire burned down towards Meyers Creek and some spots were detected across the creek up high in the drainage. One load of retardant was used on the north side of the fire. Spots are being detected a half-mile outside the main fire perimeter. The fire also pushed north out onto Whetstone Ridge.

The two fires are being estimated at 374 acres, but fire managers say smoke has inhibited updating the estimated acreage. No containment t level is listed for the fires.

On the Lolo National Forest, a community meeting to give information on the Lolo Peak Fire is scheduled for 7:00 pm tonight at Lolo Elementary School. 

That fire in the Selway-Bitterroot National Forest is now estimated at 182 acres.

Yesterday the fire grew south into the wilderness area. The northern edge of the fire showed minimal growth. The rugged and inaccessible terrain does not allow for direct work on the fire line at this time by ground resources. Aviation assets flew over the fire to monitor activity. Planning efforts are being developed to minimize impacts to local communities and infrastructure. Smoke from this fire will remain visible from Highway 12, the Bitterroot Valley and Missoula.

Today’s weather will be sunny and temperatures are expected to be in the high 70’s to low 80’s in the fire area. Relative humidity will remain low in the teens. Thursday continues to be a day of critical fire weather this week. 

Also on the Lolo National Forest, both air and ground resources were active yesterday on the 204 acre Sliderock Fire and the 834 acre Little Hogback Fire.

Fire managers say the eastern flank of the Sliderock was active with both ground and air resources, and that air tankers applied retardant on the eastern flank, and good progress was made controlling the area that was active yesterday.

The Little Hogback was most active yesterday on the eastern edge. It was monitored by both air and ground resources and with higher wind speeds predicted additional growth is expected.

Also on the Lolo National Forest, the Sunrise Fire ten miles south of Superior was active yesterday and is now approximately 100 acres. Firefighters disengaged suppression actions yesterday afternoon due to the active fire behavior and gusty winds.  Fire managers continue to improve road access points for staging heavy equipment and other resources for suppression efforts. Fire growth and general movement of the fire perimeter has been toward the Great Burn Proposed Wilderness.

in Eastern Montana, Wildland Firefighters were called to the Crying Fire located in Petroleum County west of the Musselshell River and about 30 miles northeast of Winnett, Montana yesterday.



The Crying Fire was reported mid-day and has burned approximately 3,200 acres in grass, sage and timber on Bureau of Land Management, Private, State and Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge lands.

The fire is within about 1.5 miles of five structures near the end of 79 Trail. Crews have responded from BLM, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Montana Dept. of Natural Resources and Petroleum County. There are approximately 40 Wildland Firefighters, including Helitack, 12 engines, 1 Type-3 BLM Helicopter, 1 Air Attack Plane and 2 Canadian CL212 Scooper Planes providing initial attack efforts. There is no containment at this early phase of initial attack. 

Command of fire transitioned from DNRC Incident Commander A.J. Angelo to BLM Incident Commander Scott Meneely at the end of the day July 19.

Throughout the day July 19, crews have been responding to multiple new wildland fire starts in Central and Eastern Montana.