MTPR

Montana Wildfire Roundup For July 25, 2017

Jul 25, 2017

Updated 6:30 p.m.

Crews tackling the Lolo Peak fire have switched from hand tools to heavy logging equipment to quicken the construction of a control line in the highway 12 corridor. Public Information Officer Mike Cole says the roughly 1000-acre fire in the Selway Bitteroot Wilderness is expected to eventually move down slope and this line will create a barrier for homes abutting national forest land.

“Quite a bit of this fire line is going to go across private lands,  and we’ve been working with home owners in the area for quite  a few days now.”

Cole says because the fire is inaccessible by road, crews cannot directly attack the fire due to safety concerns. Instead, managers are focusing on a longer-term approach to build a containment line around the fire.

“So once we have this control line in, we are not just going to stop and wait for the fire to come along. We’ll still be working this fire with helicopters and retardant if necessary.  We’re going to go back in forest and find some road systems that are open or we can open up.”   

Cole says the Lolo Peak fire is expected to grow but that lighter winds and smoke sitting above the fire today have kept it in check.

All of this will be explained tonight at a public meeting held tonight at seven pm in Stevensville High School. That meeting will also be live steamed on Facebook.

On the Lodgepole Complex, favorable weather conditions have allowed firefighters to make some progress on trying to contain wildfires that have destroyed 16 homes in eastern Montana. The Garfield County Sheriff is lifting the evacuations for property owners in the area.
 

Sand Springs on Highway 200 July 21, looking west-northwest through smoke from the Lodgepole Complex.
Credit Chris Barth, BLM

The Lodegepole Fire Complex is number one on the national wildfire priority list. It’s about 390 square miles, which is roughly the size of New York City.      

Firefighters say they have stopped most of the growth and gained 20 percent containment on the four fires that were started last week by lightning.

They expect to make additional progress today with lighter winds and slightly cooler temperatures.

On the Lolo National Forest, the Sliderock, Goat Creek, and Little Hogback Fires south of Clinton are now being called the Sapphire Complex.

As of this afternoon, mandatory evacuations for homes on Brewster Creek Road have been lifted by the Granite County Sheriff's Office. All residences in Brewster Creek and on Rock Creek Road between mile markers 5-13 are now under pre-evacuation warnings. Mandatory evacuations remain in effect in the area of the Sliderock fire. See evacuation map here.

Collectively the Saphhire Complex is burning 5,464 acres and are 5 percent contained. Fire activity increased yesterday when the northwest wind drove the fires into heavy fuels. Lighter southwest winds will begin to moderate fire behavior today.

Updated 11:10 am - This post will be updated as information becomes available

Firefighters report progress on the 250,000 acre (390 square miles) Lodgepole Complex of fires in Garfield County. More favorable weather yesterday helped to increase the containment to 20 percent.

Fire managers say, “the combination of intense initial attack by the landowners and local resources along with the work of fire crews has halted most the fire’s progress. Interior burning continues to occur in areas where there are unburned fuels available.

At the Lodgepole Complex incident command post
Credit Lodgepole Complex incident command

“Today’s forecasted weather should again help the suppression efforts. If conditions are right and the lines hold, crews will take the opportunity to start working from the fires edge to cool more of the interior.”

More than 600 people, including crews from 34 states, are now fighting the Lodgepole Complex.

The Sunrise Fire south of Superior is now number two on the national wildfire priority list, behind the Lodgepole Complex.

It is estimated at 1,370 acres and managers say that yesterday it exhibited “extreme fire behavior, group tree torching and long-range spotting with short crown runs.”

Today’s plan is to, “Scout, access, and open roads to access opportunities for direct or indirect line. Continue to prepare structure protection in Quartz Creek, Quartz Flat and Sunrise Creek. Aviation resources will be used to help contain the fire in the Meadow Creek drainage.”

The weather forecast is for a continued high pressure system to bring hot and dry conditions for the next several days. This high pressure will continue until Wednesday when a front approaches increasing the possibility of gusty winds and isolated thunderstorms over the fire area; only small amounts of rain predicted. The end of the week will bring continued above average hot and dry conditions with no significant rain expected in the forecast.

Three fires on the Lolo National Forest south of Clinton, the Sliderock, Goat Creek, and Little Hogback Fires are now being called the Sapphire Complex.

Collectively they are burning 5,464 acres and are 5 percent contained.

Fire behavior increased yesterday with the northwest wind, driving the fires into heavy fuels. Today, lighter southwest winds will begin to moderate fire behavior. Surface fire spread in the heavy fuels is expected.

By late afternoon expect to see a few clouds. It will once again be hot with temperatures in the 90s in the valleys and mid and upper 80s on the ridges.

Wednesday through Sunday will bring a potential for isolated to scattered thunderstorms in the late afternoon through evening hours. It will be continued hot through the middle of next week.

Firefighters report progress on the 250,000 acre (390 square miles) Lodgepole Complex of fires in Garfield County. More favorable weather yesterday helped to increase the containment to 20 percent.

Fire managers say, “the combination of intense initial attack by the landowners and local resources along with the work of fire crews has halted most the fire’s progress. Interior burning continues to occur in areas where there are unburned fuels available.

“Today’s forecasted weather should again help the suppression efforts. If conditions are right and the lines hold, crews will take the opportunity to start working from the fires edge to cool more of the interior.”

More than 600 people, including crews from 34 states, are now fighting the Lodgepole Complex.

The Sunrise Fire south of Superior is now number two on the national wildfire priority list, behind the Lodgepole Complex.

It is estimated at 1,370 acres and managers say that yesterday it exhibited “extreme fire behavior, group tree torching and long-range spotting with short crown runs.”

Today’s plan is to, “Scout, access, and open roads to access opportunities for direct or indirect line. Continue to prepare structure protection in Quartz Creek, Quartz Flat and Sunrise Creek. Aviation resources will be used to help contain the fire in the Meadow Creek drainage.”

The weather forecast is for a continued high pressure system to bring hot and dry conditions for the next several days. This high pressure will continue until Wednesday when a front approaches increasing the possibility of gusty winds and isolated thunderstorms over the fire area; only small amounts of rain predicted. The end of the week will bring continued above average hot and dry conditions with no significant rain expected in the forecast.

Three fires on the Lolo National Forest south of Clinton, the Sliderock, Goat Creek, and Little Hogback Fires are now being called the Sapphire Complex.

Collectively they are burning 5,464 acres and are 5 percent contained.

Fire behavior increased yesterday with the northwest wind, driving the fires into heavy fuels. Today, lighter southwest winds will begin to moderate fire behavior. Surface fire spread in the heavy fuels is expected.

By late afternoon expect to see a few clouds. It will once again be hot with temperatures in the 90s in the valleys and mid and upper 80s on the ridges.

Wednesday through Sunday will bring a potential for isolated to scattered thunderstorms in the late afternoon through evening hours. It will be continued hot through the middle of next week.

The Lolo Peak Fire in the Selway-Bitterrroot Wilderness is now estimated at 1,090 acres and zero percent containment.

There will be a public meeting tonight at 7:00 p.m. at the Stevensville High School, 300 Park Ave, Stevensville, in the Multi-Purpose Room. The meeting will be live streamed on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/lolonationalforest/ and https://www.facebook.com/DiscoverBitterrootNF/ . You must have a Facebook account to view the stream live. Following the meeting, the recording will be posted. This will not require an account to view.

Fire managers say that, “yesterday a successful aerial firing operation with plastic sphere dispensers was completed yesterday in the southeast corner of the fire near the Bitterroot divide. (It) reduced the fire’s intensity along the divide in steep inaccessible terrain. The majority of the activity was on the northwest edge in the Falls Creek drainage area. The fire did spot across the drainage and burned to Lantern Ridge.

Firefighters are constructing fire line from the South Fork Lolo Creek east towards Elk Meadows, working through the OZ Ranch area. Crews will be building hand line from Mill Creek on Hwy 12 towards the Percell Ranch area. A Hotshot crew will begin work along the Mormon Peak Road, (NFSR 612). A dozer will begin working to clear and open roads and a structure assessment group is continuing to work with landowners in the Hwy 12 and Hwy 93 corridors.

Tuesday weather will be cloudy in the evening but sunny and hot with temps in 80s at ridge top and 90s in the valley during the day. Wind will be west/northwest from 5-10 mph with gusts up to 20.

In Lewis and Clark County the Park Creek Fire two miles north of Lincoln is now estimated at 3,181 acres and 18 percent containment. Fire mangers say it was, “extremely active yesterday afternoon, as the gusty winds and dry conditions predicted with the Red Flag Warning materialized with uphill runs, backing, and group torching. “The majority of the activity was on the ridgeline between Liverpool and Sucker Creek, burning fuels interior to the fuel break. “As the slope, fuel and gusty winds aligned, the fire made a push in the Liverpool drainage and was burning in a saddle at the top. “The fire spotted over Liverpool Creek to the north and east, moving away from established fuel breaks. “Lookouts were established and are in place to keep close watch on the fire and weather conditions. “Current efforts are to continue improving lines and wait for the fire to back down to the line. “Warm temperatures and low relative humidity levels will remain over the fire area. Winds are predicted to be lighter. “Fire behavior analysts and weather specialists are continuing to monitor current weather conditions by capturing real-time data from six weather stations across the fire area. “There is a slight chance of an isolated thunderstorm, but mainly to the south of the fire area.”

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