Montana Wildfire News

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

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.

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.

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.

The largest wildfire in the nation burns right now in Montana, and it's the size of New York City. The 353 square mile Lodgepole Complex fire is burning in Garfield and Petroleum counties of eastern Montana.


Today fire managers in Lewis and Clark County said firefighters and a helicopter responded to a new fire ten miles northeast of Lincoln in the Alice Creek drainage. It is estimated at 15 acres in size, with zero percent containment.


As of 8 p.m. Friday, July 21, evacuations have been ordered for residents in the entire area north of Highway 200 from the Petroleum County Line and West of Edwards Road, due to the threat from the Lodgepole Complex fires. 

The evacuation area includes: Big Bart Coulee, Haley Coulee, Benzien School Area, Benzien Road all the way to Steve Forks Road, and Battle Coulee Area.

The Red Cross has set up an evacuation shelter at the VFW Hall in Jordan. 

A MAFFS-equipped C-130 Hercules from the 302nd Airlift Wing makes a water drop over New Mexico during a training exercise, May 2007.
Technical Sergeant Rick Sforza, United States Air Force (4th Combat Camera Squadron). PD.

The federal government has activated a large military airtanker to assist with wildfire suppression efforts in the West. Ken Palmrose is a public information officer with the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

"Right now it’s going to be stationed at Fresno, California and it will probably be working there in California starting tomorrow," says Ken Palmrose, a public information officer with the Fire Center.

From the Goat Creek Fire incident management team

There are now more large wildfires burning in Montana than any other state. At least 18 large fires are consuming both forests and grasslands in eastern and western Montana.

That’s according to the National Interagency Fire Center, which says, “critical fire weather conditions are expected across the northwestern U.S."

File photo
Eric Whitney

There will be a Community Meeting Tomorrow for the Whetstone Ridge & Myers Fires. Representatives from the Goat Creek, Little Hogback, and Sliderock Fires will be presenting an update on those fires. The meeting is set for 7:00 p.m. at the Philipsburg School located at 407 Schnepel St. in Philipsburg, Montana.

There will be a public meeting for the Lolo Peak Fire on Monday, July 24, at 7:00 p.m. in the gymnasium at the Lolo Elementary School.

An interactive map of the fire can be found here.

Grayback Forestry President Mike Wheelock, right, and employees at a press conference at the company's Missoula facility Thursday
Eric Whitney

At a press conference Thursday, Mike Wheelock, the president of the company that employed 19-year-old firefighter Trenton Johnson was visibly shaken while giving details of the accident that killed Johnson on Wednesday.

"We just ask that you keep the family in your prayers, and the fellow workers, and all the firefighters that are out there right now on the line," he said, choking up. 

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

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.

Mike Wheelock, president of Merlin, Oregon-based Grayback Forestry in Missoula Thursday
Eric Whitney

This story was updated at 3:30pm.

Trenton Johnson was on just his second assignment for Oregon-based Grayback Forestry when he was struck by a falling tree.

A helicopter drops water on the Slide Rock Fire on July 14th

Updated 6:05 pm

Fire officials in the greater Flathead Valley say there’s been 86 wildfires reported in the area since July 1, and at least half of them are human caused. The area is currently pegged at “Very High” fire danger, as hot, dry conditions and almost daily lightning storms persist.

Lincoln Chute is the fire manager for Flathead County Office of Emergency Services.

A crew on the Lazier Creek 3 Fire Sunday

Updated 6:50 pm

In addition to the Lolo Peak Fire, several other fires on the Lolo National Forest include a pair on the Ninemile ranger district. Those are the approximately three acre Sunrise Fire, located ten miles south of Superior, and the estimated 12-mile Burdette Fire is located about nine miles southeast of Tarkio. That fire showed minimal activity yesterday.

On the Seeley Lake Ranger District, the Monahan Fire is located about 17 miles north of Ovando and is burning near the Wilderness boundary in remote terrain.

Wildfire Roundup For July 15, 2017

Jul 15, 2017
Crews constructing line on the Rogers Mtn Fire

Update: 5:15 p.m., 07/15/17

In Lewis & Clark County west of Wolf Creek, homes have been evacuated on Lynx Trail Drive, Whispering Pines Road, North Lyons Creek Road. Anyone who has been evacuated may find shelter at the Wolf Creek School.

Some of the crews fighting the July fire on Friday morning

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.

A member of the Flathead Hotshots walks the fire line at the edge of a prescribed burn near Lakeside this spring
Nicky Ouellet

Fire season arrived in Montana this month. As crew leaders set up command centers and assess the flames, they’re seeing the product of previous management decisions that have shaped the forest.

A firefighter was struck by a falling tree and killed while fighting fire in the Lolo National Forest Wednesday.

Updated 10:45 AM.

In Northwest Montana:

Weather conditions kept behavior of the Lazier Creek 3 Fire "moderate" yesterday, firefighters report. Today's estimate of the fire's size remaines at 1,145 acres, and 30 percent contained, the same as yesterday. There are 176 personnel assigned to the fire.

The fire is located south of Highway 2 and west of the Thompson River Road.

A Forest Service helicopter near Missoula, MT.
Lane Lamoreaux (PD)

The State of Montana’s fleet of firefighting helicopters remains unable to to fight some fires on federal land, and Wednesday a state legislative council asked for action. It’s been a years-long struggle.

A map of the fires burning between Kalispell and Libby, updated July 12, 2017

Update 5 p.m. 07/12/17

Additional crews and fire engines have arrived to fight  five separate fires in the Highway 2 corridor.

A heavy air tanker drops retardant on the July fire on Monday

Update 5 p.m. 07/11/17

Fire officials are now investigating whether a person is responsible for starting the big fire burning near Zortman.

"In order not to compromise the investigation, the BLM is not currently discussing the active investigation," says Pat Stocktt, who's with the Western Montana Incident Management Team.

July Fire file photo courtesy of InciWeb

Update: 6:30 p.m. 07/10/17

Tribal officials have increased the fire danger to “Extreme” on the west side of the Flathead Indian Reservation and “Very High” on the east side.

Fire managers for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes write in a press release that fine, dead fuels are drying out across the reservation. They add human behavior, such as tossing cigarette butts onto dry grass, leaving campfires unattended, lighting fireworks, burning debris and driving through dry grasses, has caused multiple grass fires across the Northern Rockies over the past week.

A file photo courtesy MT DNRC Fire
Montana DNRC

Lightning on Friday afternoon resulted in several fire starts across Northwest Montana, some of which were not detected until Sunday.

Montana's Department of Natural Resources and Conservation reports numerous fires scattered throughout the Pleasant Valley/Happy’s Inn/ACM/Fisher River area.


A mixed bag of news today from the July fire burning south of the Fort Belknap Reservation in Phillips County.