Montana fires acted up again Sunday after a relatively quiet weekend. While evacuations were lifted on the Jocko Lakes fire near Seeley and the Chippy Creek near Thompson Falls, by Sunday evening, evacuation orders had been reissued in some areas on the Jocko Lakes fire. And the now 12,000-acre Columbine fire in Yellowstone National Park had forced the closure of the eastern entrance to the park.
The Columbine fire, which started Thursday by a lightning strike, had grown 9,000 acres from Sunday afternoon’s estimate to 12,000 acres. Park rangers closed the road at the East Entrance station and the Pelican Creek barricade near Fishing Bridge at about 4:15 Sunday afternoon and flames were visible from the road, according to reports.
Two of the new starts of concern over the weekend were the Wicked Creek Fire, 27 miles south of Livingston, the Hicks Park Fire, burning in the Gallatin National Forest south of Big Timber, and the Wolf Creek Fire southeast of Miles City in Eastern Montana. The Wolf Creek fire grew to 6,713 acres, but was 75 percent contained Monday. The Wicked Creek fire forced more evacuations Sunday night as the fire grew to 8,500 acres.
Also in Eastern Montana, Moon Creek Settlement Fire is burning in timber and grass 25 miles southeast of Miles City. The blaze is estimated at 2,000 acres and 15 percent contained. Extreme wind-driven fire activity was reported. About 40 structures are threatened and evacuations are in effect on “several” homes, according to morning reports.
Ash and smoke covered Western Montana Sunday and Monday morning, although most of the smoke was coming from the large fires burning in Idaho. Fire officials on several Montana fires said the thick smoke may help keep a lid on fire behavior Monday.
Jocko Lakes Fire, west of Seeley Lake
The Jocko Lakes Fire broke out on its east side closest to Seeley Lake Sunday, moving south along the contingency line at West Side Bypass Road (2190), parallel to and about 1 ½ miles west of Seeley Lake. But the fire did not cross the line and crews were able to regain control, fire information officer Pete Buist said.
Gusty winds upwards of 25 mph sent spot fires into the Eagle Point subdivision, forcing firefighters to foam structures and perform burnout operations there. No additional structures were lost. A couple hours later, the winds died down and the fire laid down.
Sunday’s fire activity prompted officials to reissue mandatory evacuation orders for areas west of Highway 83, including: Boy Scout Road from Highway 83 to the bridge; Riverview from Highway 83 to the bridge; The two subdivisions adjacent to Riverview Bridge; Daisy; Wagonwheel and Overland.
The fire is mapped at 20,800 acres — more than 32 square miles — and 11 percent contained. Click here for the full story on Jocko Lakes.
Wicked Creek Fire, east side of Paradise Valley
The Wicked Creek, burning 12 miles up the Mill Creek basin on the east side of Paradise Valley, grew to 8,500 acres by Monday morning about 20 structures, including a bible camp and an inholding, were evacuated Saturday and Sunday night, the Park County Sheriff issued evacuation orders for the Mill Creek drainage as well, above the end of the paved road. A Type I team is arriving at the fire Monday. It is burning about 2 miles south of Templed Hills Church Camp and 2 1/2 miles south and east of Snowbank Campground. It is burning in grass and timber and is being pushed north/northeast by strong and gusty winds. The Forest will hold a public meeting Monday night at the Emigrant Community Center at 7 p.m.
The Type I team coming in will manage both the Wicked Creek Fire and the new 1,200-1,500-acre Hicks Park Fire south of Big Timber.
Chippy Creek Fire, North of Thompson Falls
The Chippy Creek Fire, 42 miles southwest of Kalispell, grew by nearly 15,000 acres this weekend to about 76,000 acres, but containment is up to 25 percent contained. Smoke and flames were visible from miles away, but the fire stayed within contingency lines, fire information officer Dixie Dies said.
“We had a pretty good show this weekend,” Dies said.
A Northern Rockies Type 1 team will take over the fire Monday, replacing the Arizona-based Type II team that had been managing the incident. Evacuation orders have been lifted for everyone except residents of the Hubbart Dam subdivision, where there are about 25 structures.
In Western Montana:
- The Sawmill Complex, a complex of three fires near Rock Creek and 22 miles southeast of Missoula, was up to 29,820 acres Monday morning, adding about 6,000 acres over the weekend. While the blaze is nearly ten percent contained, it has been active with flame lengths of up to 200 feet on the northeast edge. Pencil-sized materials, branches and embers, wafted about one third of a mile into the air, fire information officer James Stone said. While some evacuations were lifted last week for the Williams Gulch and Wild Rose Loop subdivisions, all other evacuations and road closures remain in effect.
Rock Creek Road beginning at the intersection of I-90, south to the intersection with state road 348, remains closed. Only residents and area landowners are allowed access beyond the control points. Stony Creek Rd. is also closed.
There will be a public meeting Monday at 7 p.m. at the Elkhorn Ranch Lodge to discuss the Sawmill Complex.
- The Rombo Fire, on the Bitterroot National Forest, grew Sunday by more than 1,000 acres and is up to 5,268 acres, with zero percent contained.
- Several new starts were reported on the Bitterroot National Forest. 30 firefighters were sent to the Lost Trail Pass, which was at 5 acres Sunday morning. An initial attack team succeeded in snuffing the Canyon fire, which was started Wednesday by lightening.
- The Tin Cup Fire west of Darby was called 100 percent contained Sunday and the management team issued its final update, saying fire crews would start patrolling the area and continue to mop up hot spots within 300 feet of the fire perimeter. Fire suppression rehabilitation is also underway. “Demobilization of resources has begun as the fire growth potential is low,” the update reported. Evacuation orders were lifted Saturday for about 37 homes that had been affected. The fire is at 608 acres, and despite initial alarm about the blaze – it was the nation’s number one priority late last week – it was contained quickly with no structures lost. Call 406-375-6650 for more information. The fire burned 608 acres.
For more on the Rombo, Tin Cup and all of the Bitterroot blazes go here: http://188.8.131.52/WildWeb/WCMT-BRC.htm. Click “recent incidents.”
- The Conger Creek Fire, Lolo National Forest, 20 miles north of Ovando along Highway 200. 7,850 acres at zero percent contained, being managed as a Wildand Fire Use fire and monitored, not actively suppressed. (Click here to learn more about Wildand Fire Use.)
- The Skyland Fire in the Flathead National Forest totals 40,028 acres at 56 percent contained. It’s 45 miles east of Whitefish.
- The Brush Creek Fire, about 29 miles west of Whitefish, MT, is up to 26,640 acres, gaining about 370 acres Sunday, and is up to 43 percent contained with a target containment date set for August 30. There is direct and indirect line all the way around the fire, but crews still need to burn and blacken the line to secure it. The mandatory evacuation order for the community of Star Meadow remains in effect. The Good Creek Community has been put on warning to be ready should it need to evacuate.
- The Garceau Fire, 10 miles from Polson on the Flathead Indian Reservation, has burned a total of 3,045 acres. Officials declared it contained Monday.
- The Hicks Park Fire, was discovered Sunday night. The fire, burning up the Main Boulder Drainage south of Big Timber, is estimated at approximately 1,200 – 1,500 acres. The Main Boulder River Road, from Natural Bridge south is closed. The drainage has been evacuated from ClydeHurst Church Camp (near Big Beaver Campground) south to Box Canyon. From Natural Bridge to ClydeHurst Church Camp, residents have been placed on pre-evacuation notice. For more information, click here.
- The Rat Creek Fire, has burned nearly 1,500 acres in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, 25 miles west of Wisdom, zero percent contained. Sustained crown fire with long-range spotting was observed. No structures threatened.
- The Pattengail Creek Fire, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest 10 miles northeast of Wisdom. 5,000 acres at 20 percent contained. Because this fire is not advancing as rapidly as other fires in the region, it is considered to be a lower priority.
- The Ahorn Fire burning in the Bob Marshall Wilderness and Lewis and Clark National Forest 30 miles west of Augusta has been quieted lately by higher relative humidity. Precipitation occurred over the fire area Friday and there’s been no sustained fire activity. The fire is 44,181 acres at six percent contained. Click here for a recent map of the fire.
- Crews have a good handle on the Meriwether Fire, burning in the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness north of Helena near Wolf Creek. The fire is up to 41,396 acres and is 70 percent contained.
- The Fool Creek Fire, in the Lewis and Clark National Forest, in Bob Marshall Wilderness, 32,608 acres, 30 miles Northwest of Choteau. The fire is 0 percent contained but showed very little growth over the weekend; and a containment target has been set for Oct. 31.
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