Essex Evacuation Lifted as Cool Weather Calms Sheep Fire

Firefighters are beginning to go home and a Type III management team will take control of the fire

By Justin Franz
The Sheep Fire burns near Essex on Aug. 20, 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Cool weather and rain have calmed the Sheep Fire on the southern edge of Glacier National Park and the pre-evacuation order for Essex has been lifted, fire managers announced Friday morning.

The Montana Department of Transportation announced that U.S. Highway 2 would be open near Essex without pilot cars that have guided traffic since the fire blew up two weeks ago. However, people are still prohibited from stopping or parking in the fire area, particularly near the Goat Lick Overlook.

The Type II incident management team that has been battling the blaze is transitioning to a Type III team over the weekend and many firefighters will start to go home. As of Friday, there were 213 firefighters assigned to the Thompson Divide Complex, which includes the Sheep, Thompson and Granite fires. All three have been especially calm this week as cool weather has dominated the forecast.

As of Friday morning, the Sheep Fire had burned 2,171 acres near Essex. The lightning caused fire threatened U.S. Highway 2, BNSF Railway’s main line and more than 200 structures in Essex at one point. The Thompson Fire had burned more than 18,000 acres north of Nyack in Glacier National Park and the Granite Fire near Marias Pass has burned more than 900 acres.

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