Weather Moderates Activity of 1,867-Acre Hay Creek Fire Near Polebridge

Crews hope to burn out remaining consumable fuels between Hay Creek Road and fire perimeter today; Thorne Creek Fire in Sanders County has forced evacuation orders for 206 residents

By Myers Reece
Hay Creek FIre near Polebridge on July 23. Courtesy of InciWeb

Cloud cover yesterday afternoon moderated fire activity for the second straight day on the nearly 2,000-acre Hay Creek Fire near Polebridge, while the cooler and moister weather today may provide an opportunity for crews to burn out the remaining consumable fuels between Hay Creek Road and the main fire’s perimeter.

Despite the welcomed cloud cover, downslope winds from the weather cell that moved through yesterday evening pushed the fire toward Hay Creek Road on the southwest flank.

Crews’ current priority objective is to hold the fire line at Hay Creek Road, which tracks along the fire’s southern perimeter, and firefighters were able to successfully lay about 7,000 feet of hose along the road yesterday, according an incident update this morning.

Heavy equipment task forces will continue working to widen existing roads to connect past silvicultural forest treatments and build contingency lines, the update stated.

“Monsoonal moisture from the southeast has led to increased humidity levels,” the report states. “However, weather trends are still seasonally hot and dry … active fire behavior will continue to be expected overnight.”

The lightning-caused fire’s size has been updated to 1,867 acres, burning at 0% containment about four miles west of Polebridge. Evacuation warnings are in place for all residences east and west of the North Fork Road from Home Ranch Bottoms north to and including Moose Creek Road and the community of Polebridge.

Road and trail closures are in place. Visit here for more details.

Glacier National Park says the fire could “potentially affect park visitation,” although it hasn’t reached the park. As a precautionary measure, the park isn’t issuing backcountry permits for areas north of Polebridge, including the Quartz, Bowman, Akokala, Kintla, Kishenehn and Round Prairie drainages.

No areas of Glacier are closed at this time, but the park has issued an evacuation warning to all visitors in the North Fork area of the park north of Logging Creek.

Meanwhile, the South Yaak Fire four miles northwest of Troy in Lincoln County grew by 1,397 acres, spreading to both sides of Kilbrennan Lake, crossing the road and moving toward Gunsight Mountain.

“Given the cooler weather conditions, this fire behavior demonstrates the extreme fire danger and dry vegetation,” an incident update from this morning stated.

The significant growth pushed the fire’s size bigger than the nearby Burnt Creek Fire, which is burning at 3,002 acres nine miles southwest of Troy in Lincoln County.

Both the South Yaak and Burnt Creek fires were caused by lightning. South Yaak is at 20% containment, while Burnt Creek is at 31%.

For the Burnt Creek Fire, pre-evacuation notices are in place for residences along North Fork Keeler Creek. For South Yaak, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office conducted mandatory evacuations for all residents on East Side Road and Kilbrennan Lake Road. At this time, no structure damage has been reported.

In Sanders County, the 10,357-acre Thorne Creek Fire, burning about five miles northeast of Thompson Falls, has forced evacuations of residences from Cougar Creek south to the intersection of Blue Slide Road and River View Lane, on the east side of Blue Slide Road in Graves North and South and on the east side of the power lines in Harlow. The northeast side of the power lines in Ashley was moved into evacuation order status today.

There are now 206 residents from 146 total residences under evacuation order there. (Editor’s Note: Lolo National Forest officials initially announced that 206 “residences” were under evacuation order but corrected that to 206 “residents” from 146 residences.)

“The team is coordinating closely with local agencies with the goal of returning residents home as soon as it is safe to do so,” the incident report states.

Montana Red Cross opened an evacuation center earlier this week at the Thompson Falls Community Center on 410 Golf St.

Pre-evacuation notices are also in place for other residences in the area.

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