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Montana Wildfire News

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Active Montana wildfires: Inciweb Montana.

Restrictions, closures, air quality info, and emergency services: Fire Season Information.

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Inciweb

Today's air quality is, again, expected to be less-than-ideal. Buckle up for the long haul, because the smoke is probably going to be with us for quite some time.

Missoula City-County Air Quality Specialist Sarah Coefield's air quality updates are always a good read. Here are her projections for western Montana today:

Shane O'Farrell/Inciweb

Fire activity on the more than 7,200 acre Rice Ridge Fire northwest of Seeley Lake increased today as it burns into heavy stands of beetle killed trees.

The evacuation warning is still in effect for residents on both sides of Highway 83 south of Rice Ridge Road to Morrell Creek and south of Cottonwood Lakes Road east of Highway 83, including the town of Seeley Lake and Double Arrow Ranch. No actual evacuations have been ordered.

For a complete list of fire restrictions now in effect across Montana, visit our website https://firerestrictions.us/mt/
firerestrictions.us/mt/

Stage 1 Fire Restrictions are going into effect Saturday for areas of southwestern  Montana.

The new fire restrictions will begin at midnight tonight in Madison, Beaverhead, Deer Lodge, Silver Bow Counties. The restrictions will also be set for  Powell County south of I-90 and Highway 12, and Granite County south of I-90 and east of the Lolo National Forest boundary.

Inciweb

Missoula County Sheriff and Coroner T.J. McDermott released the name of the firefighter who was killed while working on the Lolo Peak Fire yesterday afternoon. The sheriff says 29 year old Brent M. Witham of Mentone, California was killed when a tree was being cut down, and fell on him.

Lolo National Forest Spokeswoman Pat York says exact details of Witham’s death are still unclear.

Montana is spending over a million dollars a day fighting wildfires. These are Goat Creek and Sliderock fires, July 23, 2017.
Inciweb

The money set aside to fight wildfires in Montana is rapidly dwindling as portions of the state are in extreme drought conditions. But John Tubbs, Director of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, says there’s more money available to keep up the firefighting efforts, in other pockets of state government.

“We don’t run out,” Tubbs says.

An unmaned aerial vehicle, also known as a drone. File photo.
(PD)

The drone pilot allegedly responsible for temporarily shutting down aerial firefighting operations on the Rice Ridge Fire near Seeley Lake Wednesday is now the subject of a federal investigation.

The U.S. Forest Service is working in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Department of Justice to determine if charges are warranted.

Rovero's gas station and hardware store was abuzz with activity Tuesday
Eric Whitney

As of mid-afternoon Wednesday, firefighters were having an easier day on the Rice Ridge Fire than Tuesday. The cold front that moved in overnight moderated temperatures and raised humidity levels. That's according to Mark DeGregorio, a spokesman for the Rice Ridge firefighting team. 

"The fire behavior I think could be characterized as moderate today," DeGregorio said, "certainly more moderate than it was yesterday."

Predicted high winds overnight Tuesday into Wednesday did not materialize in Seeley Lake, but Tuesday was still a pretty scary day, as the entire town was put on an evacuation warning due to the Rice Ridge Fire.

Rice Ridge Fire near Seeley Lake
Inciweb

A firefighter assigned to the Lolo Peak Fire has died. A little before 4 p.m., the firefighter was struck by a tree and airlifted to a Missoula Hospital.

Before Fire Season Finishes, Rehab Begins

Aug 2, 2017

The Lodgepole Complex Fire is nearly 100 percent contained, and now work is shifting to rehabilitate the impacted land.

The Department of Natural Resources and Conservation’s Mark Bostrum distributes money to impacted wildfire areas as the administrator of conservation and resource development.

Be smart, don't fly your drone anywhere near a wildfire. No amount of video or photos are worth the consequences.
U.S. Forest Service

Aerial firefighting operations on the Rice Ridge Fire near Seeley Lake had to be shut down for a few minutes today due to a civilian drone.

This fire season there have already been more than 18 public drone incursions, most of which resulted in the temporary shutdown of aerial firefighting efforts.

A super scooper plane loads up at Seeley Lake on the evening of August 1, while fighting the Rice Ridge Fire visible in the background.
Eric Whitney

Half boat, half plane, the super scooper glides over the water's surface and guzzles up to 1,200 gallons of water in 10 seconds, then drops its load on a fire. A tiny propeller plane flies nearby to give navigation and water deployment tips. Seeley Lake was closed to swimmers, boaters and fisher-people on the evening of August 1 to give this plane space to work as it lapped trips over the Rice Ridge Fire, visible in the background, which has put the nearby community on an evacuation warning.

Northern Rockies IMT

There are multiple evacuation warnings due to fires in northwest Montana, and at least one mandatory evacuation order in effect.

About 4:00 this afternoon the Missoula County Sheriff’s office issued an evacuation warning due to the Lolo Peak Fire.

As the most severe drought in the nation continues to pummel ranchers and farmers in northeastern Montana, the National Weather Service says it isn’t ending anytime soon. 

In the Whetstone Ridge Fire area in the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest
InciWeb

Updated 6:20 p.m.

The Sunrise Fire between Alberton and Superior grew by about 2,000 acres yesterday. It’s now burning an estimated 8,200 acres and is about 5 percent contained.

Early Sunday evening the Mineral County Sheriff issued an early-evening evacuation order for residents in the Verde Creek area. The Quartz Creek, Sunrise Creek and Quartz Flats areas were evacuated last week.

Public information officer Megan Nemitz says smoke is creating additional challenges, but that crews have been able to make some progress protecting the roughly 80 structures under threat.

InciWeb

UPDATE 7:30 p.m.

The Mineral County Sheriff's Office has issued a Stage 3 evacuation order for residents along Verde Creek Road 450 due to the Sunrise Fire. This is the time to leave the area immediately and in an orderly fashion. The Red Cross Shelter at the Superior High School will be open if a need exists. People in Sunrise Creek, Quartz Flats, Quartz Creek and Verde Creek are now under an evacuation order. Residents of the Rivulet Area should be on the alert for fire activity.

New Evacuation For Sunrise Fire Near Superior

Jul 28, 2017
Firefighters loading up onto a helicopter on the Sunrise Fire.
Rand Snyder/Inciweb

The Mineral Country Sheriff issued a third evacuation order for areas around the Sunrise Fire late this morning. Residents were advised to immediately leave their homes.

It applies to residences in Quartz Creek. These homes now join an estimated 50 others in the Quartz Flats and Sunrise Creek areas, who were ordered to evacuate on Wednesday.

Weather, fuel, and topography all affect wildfire behavior—and changes in any one of them can greatly impact the way firefighters work the fire lines.

It’s up to incident meteorologists and fire behavior analysts to help firefighters understand the nature of the particular fire they are battling, and how best to contain it quickly and safely.

The Lodgepole Complex of fires has burned more than a quarter-million acres of rangeland in eastern Montana. Hundreds of firefighters came from 34 states to battle the blaze. While it’s now almost fully contained, ranchers who live here are left with a landscape of scorched grass and scattered cattle.

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

The U.S. government has reversed its earlier decision to deny a request for aid to help pay for fighting Montana’s largest wildfire.

FEMA approved the state's grant application today to Montana Disaster and Emergency Services.

Saskatchewan's CL215, or "super scooper," is decontaminated of potential invasive species after fighting the Bridge Coulee Fire on the east side of the continental divide.
Nicky Ouellet

Montana faces twin threats this summer: On land, crews are battling some of the biggest and most destructive fires in the country. In the water, officials are staving off the spread of invasive mussels that could cause millions of dollars of damage to hydropower dams and irrigation lines. These threats come together for wildland firefighters, who often use equipment that travels across the country and has the potential to carry invasive hitchhikers with it. But firefighters are tackling the potential contamination head on.

InciWeb

Updated 1:00 p.m.

On the Sunrise Fire between Alberton and Superior: Yesterday at about 6:00 pm the Mineral County Sheriff moved both Quartz Flats and Sunrise communities into a stage 3 evacuation. A stage 3 evacuation means that the residents in those areas need to leave the area immediately. Additionally, the Sheriff moved the Verde Creek residents into stage 2, which means that those residents need to be ready to leave at a moment's notice.

Today at about 11:00 am, the Lolo National Forest issued A stage 1 evacuation notice for the Rivulet area. Stage 1 means to stay alert and keep informed of the fire.

Fire camp sunset on the Sunrise Fire 7/24/17
InciWeb

Yesterday at about 6:00 pm the Mineral County Sheriff moved both Quartz Flats and Sunrise communities into a stage 3 evacuation. A stage 3 evacuation means that the residents in those areas need to leave the area immediately. Additionally, the Sheriff moved the Verde Creek residents into stage 2, which means that those residents need to be ready to leave at a moment's notice.

Today at about 11:00 am, the Lolo National Forest issued A stage 1 evacuation notice for the Rivulet area. Stage 1 means to stay alert and keep informed of the fire.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For July 26, 2017

Jul 26, 2017
A pyrocumulus cloud spotted over the Lolo Peak fire, July 26, 2017.
Saxon Holbrook

The Mineral County Sheriff’s Office has issued an evacuation order for residents of Sunrise and Quartz Flats due to the 2,700 acre Sunrise Fire. Authorities ask that people leave the area immediately and in an orderly fashion.

Residents in Quartz Creek remain under a stage two evacuation warning. These residents should to be ready to leave at a moment's notice

The nation’s biggest wildfire may be fully contained within a week.

According to Rick Connell, incident commander for the Lodgepole Complex fire in eastern Montana, everything is “looking pretty good.”

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

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.

A retardant drop on the Lodgepole Complex, July 23, 2017.
Inciweb

The Garfield County Sheriff is lifting the evacuations for property owners in the Lodgepole Complex Fire area. That’s thanks to more favorable weather conditions that have allowed firefighters from 34 states to make some progress on trying to contain the massive 390 square mile fire.

Brie Ripley interviews YPR reporter Nate Hegyi who is onsite at the Lodgepole Complex fire, the largest wildfire in the country at 353 sq. miles.

The Goat Creek Fire from St. Mary Peak Sunday
Rob Saldin

Updated 4:10 pm

In Lolo tonight, there’s a public meeting at Lolo Elementary at 7 p.m. about the Lolo Peak fire. Another meeting on the fire is scheduled for the same time Tuesday at Stevensville High School.

A satellite photo showing the Lodgepole complex fires in Montana.
NASA

On Sunday, Governor Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency in Montana because of wildfires. MTPR's Eric Whitney spoke to him Monday afternoon about what that means on the ground.

Gov. Steve Bullock.
Freddy Monares - UM Legislative News Service

An automatic state budget cut could pull tens of millions of dollars out of the state firefighting fund as early as Tuesday.

During the legislative session earlier this year state lawmakers approved a bill that triggers budget cuts based on how much revenue is coming in.

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