Update 4:15 PM:
New fires are cropping up and emergency officials are preparing for potentially dangerous fire weather over the weekend. About 2:00 this afternoon evacuations started east of Roundup due to a fire estimated at 2,000 acres that was discovered this morning.
The Red Cross has set up a shelter for evacuees in Roundup, it is unclear at this time how many people might be displaced.
East of Missoula the Slide Rock and Little Hogback Fires were detected yesterday. The Lolo National Forest says they are burning in remote areas, and experienced strong winds yesterday.
The Slide Rock is estimated at 15 acres, but there are also spot fires around it in about a 100 acre areas.
The Little Hogback is being called two to three acres. Neither fire is threatening any structures, both are suspected to have been caused by lightning. Aircraft attacked the fires last night, and today ground crews were sent to the Slide Rock.
In Northwest Montana, crews have made good progress against several fire in the last few days. That includes the 1,145 acre Lazier Creek 3 Fire, which went from 30 to 35 percent contained yesterday.
Anna Callahan, a spokesperson for the teams fighting the fires in Northwest Montana says, "there was a little bit more wind yesterday than anticipated, but they were able to keep the progress. It’s been a similar day today, but less wind."
This afternoon the Flathead Office of Emergency Services bumped up fire danger in their area from “high” to “very high.” That means fires will start easily from most causes. Hot, and mostly dry weather will continue through the weekend, with thunderstorms expected tonight into Saturday across all of western Montana. On Sunday, a cold front may lead to critical fire weather conditions in northwest Montana as winds become breezy and the relative humidities drop. Since July 1 there have been a total of 69 reported wildfires in the area. Many were lightning caused, with over half being human-caused.
Updated 2:15 PM: The Billings Gazette is reporting that people in the Roundup area are being advised to evacuate due to a fire there.
Local updates are being posted to the Musselshell County Department of Emergency Services Facebook page.
Updated 11:25 AM:
A new fire east of Missoula in the Rock Creek area, the Slide Rock Fire was reported last night and is now believed to be about 30-40 acres in size.
A spokesman for the Lolo National Forest says it was attacked aggressively with aircraft last night, but it was too unsafe to send firefighters in on the ground due running and spotting behavior associated with wind. We'll have more details on the fire as they become available.
The National Weather Service's Missoula office is forecasting strong to severe thunderstorm potential today and Saturday An NWS release says: "Afternoon and evening thunderstorms capable of producing strong to severe wind gusts and dangerous lightning are expected both today and Saturday. Monsoon moisture will move up today over southwest Montana initiating storms while a combination of an incoming cold front and monsoon moisture will increase the threat both in severity and areal coverage on Saturday. IMPACTS AND CONFIDENCE • Thunderstorm occurrence: High confidence • Severe Wind potential(58+ mph): Medium confidence today. Higher confidence Saturday. • Timing: Medium confidence DETAILS AND TIMING • Today o Storms will begin to develop over Lemhi County, Idaho early afternoon...southwest Montana by mid to late afternoon. o Lightning and strong winds are the main threats. o High resolution weather models have predicted a few wind gusts near 60 mph including places like Granite, Powell, Deer Lodge and Silver Bow Counties. But there seems to be a reasonable threat that Ravalli County could see strong winds if storms are able to develop there. For Missoula County, outflow winds from southern storms should remain below 50 mph speeds arriving sometime in the evening hours. • Saturday morning (8 am to noon): Northwest Montana o Showers and a few weak thunderstorms are possible over Lincoln, Sanders, and western Flathead Counties in the morning. o Main threats will be lightning and gusty winds to 40 mph. o New fire starts are possible. o There is a chance that storms could re-develop over the Flathead Valley and Glacier National Park by the early afternoon hours. Our confidence for this happening is low but if there is enough warming to increase the instability, a few storms could become strong with gusty winds, lightning and hail. • Saturday o Areal coverage of severe wind threat increases to include the Missoula, Mission Valleys and the Seeley Lake region, eastern Idaho and Clearwater Counties in Idaho. o Storms could be stronger due to increased wind shear and will be wetter due to increased moisture. o Strong storms will develop by early afternoon and track north and eastward. o Small hail for the most part, but couldn't rule out an isolated storm producing up to 1 inch hail. o Lightning-caused wildfire starts
Containment grew on the Lazier Creek 3 Fire yesterday, from 30 to 35 percent. Its size remains at an estimated 1,145 acres, and the personnel fighting it grew from 176 yesterday to 300 today. It is located south of Highway 2 and west of the Thompson River Road. Firefighters are working to extend hose lays from the northwestern perimeter of the fire as it continues to hold heat. Hotshot crews continue to improve fireline along the northern perimeter. Crews in the southeastern portion of the fire saw increased fire activity due to warmer weather and gusty winds including group tree torching and spotting. Aircraft will continue to drop water on the areas with the most heat to aid firefighters on the ground.
Containment on the 78 acre Rogers Mountain Fire grew from 49 to 60 percent yesterday, and the number of personnel assigned to it dropped from 77 to 69. It is located 3 miles Northwest of Happy’s Inn. Firefighters completed laying hose and will continue to extinguish hot spots around the perimeter of the fire. Crews will begin working into the interior of the fire utilizing water to cool of pockets of heat. Efforts will focus on the southern edge of the fire where the fire was most active yesterday.
The 12 acre NW Meadow Peak Fire is now 95% contained, up from 79 percent yesterday, and ther are 17 personnel assigned to that fire. Firefighters are focused on extinguishing remaining hot spots utilizing hose lays and engines to cool those areas off with water.
The four acre 2645 Fire grew from 50 percent to 80% contained. Crews continue with mop up efforts extinguishing remaining hot spots utilizing hose lays and a water tender to cool those areas off with water.
The Grubb Fire, at 16 acres, was declared 100 percent contained yeserday. Engine crews continue with mop up efforts extinguishing any remaining pockets of heat.
The Thompson River Road remains closed at the junction with Highway 2 south to the 28 mile marker.
Temperatures in Northwest Montana are expected to be in the mid 90s today with winds from 5-10 mph and gusts up to 15mph. There is a chance for lightning early Saturday morning through noon. No wetting rain is expected to accompany the lightning.
The BLM is reporting a new, 1,550 acre blaze, the Cohagen Fire, 11 miles northwest of Jordan. It is being called 40 percent contained and being managed by the BLM and Garfield County fire warden. The BLM says that multiple retardant drops by single-engine and heavy air tankers have slowed progression of this fire.
On the July Fire near Zortman, yesterday’s continued cooler temperatures and moderate humidity allowed aircraft and crews on the ground to continue burnout operations in the northern area. InciWeb says, "burnout operations were very successful in removing understory vegetation and reducing the amount of fuel left in the targeted area. Firefighters on foot continued to patrol for hotspots along cool areas of the fire."
Today, weather will bring increased temperatures and lower humidity to the area. There is a Red Flag Warning in effect for today and Saturday, as well as a heat advisory. Crews have worked hard during optimal weather to increase security and robustness of the fire lines and blackened areas in preparation for the forecasted weather. Residents and visitors will continue to see smoke in the area as interior pockets of un-burned fuel continues to burn.
Fireline rehabilitation will be an ongoing process in the weeks to come, and each area is being evaluated for specific needs depending on terrain and fire intensity. Fire hoses, equipment and pumps continue to be removed in areas where there has been no recent fire activity.
BLM Law Enforcement continues to investigate the July Fire as a suspected human caused fire.
The pair of fires south of Ashland and Lame Deer called the Tongue River Complex is now estimated at 32,965 acres and 83 percent containment. The larger of the two fires, the Witten, is estimated at 28,957 and 80 percent containment. The Lee Creek Fire is 4,008 acres and 100 percent contained.
The 1,733 acre Blue Ridge Complex was declared 100 percent contained last night.