GREAT FALLS — The Southern Area Red Incident Management Team provided the following update on Monday, August 2, for several large fires that are burning south/southeast of Great Falls, and east of Helena.
American Fork Fire
- Acreage: 14,397; Containment: 10%; Start date: July 17; Cause: Lightning; Personnel assigned: 183
- The American Fork Fire is burning northeast of the Crazy Mountains, about 24 miles southwest of Harlowton. The fire was active in the south and west sections with some growth along the western edge of the fire. Firefighters are focused on minimizing additional growth to the north of Shields River and are providing structure protection at several nearby ranches. A mandatory evacuation is in effect for the Smith Creek area and portions of the Upper Shields River. Firefighters are protecting structures in that area should the fire move west toward Smith Creek, and in the Shields River drainage. Crews are monitoring the northern end with the expectation that the 2017 Blacktail Fire footprint will temper fire progression to the north. Firefighters will fight the fire directly as necessary in areas without roads or natural barriers. Hotshot crews built handline on the fire yesterday, tying fireline in to rocky areas throughout the fire. Firelines are also being constructed in the southeast portion of the fire in the Sweetgrass Creek area.
Balsinger and Ellis fires
- Acreage: Balsinger 9,788; Ellis 1,227; Containment: 26%; Start date: July 8; Cause: Balsinger-Lightning; Ellis–TBD; Personnel assigned: 308
- The Balsinger Fire is burning about seven miles west of Neihart. The fire was very active yesterday with some slow movement to the north, where it reached the top of Thunder Mountain. Helicopters dropped water yesterday to cool hot spots and today, they will provide water drops as necessary to check northward progression. The night crew monitored for potential growth toward Neihart. Firefighters continue to focus on structure preparation and protection in the Tillinghast Creek drainage, keeping the fire north of Divide Road by improving fireline on Divide Road and secondary containment lines and constructing fireline at Dry Park Road. Night crews will monitor the fire overnight to protect structures. Interior smoke will continue to be visible. The Ellis Fire, about 2.5 miles southwest of Smith River, continues to show limited fire activity. Air patrols noted a small area of smoke well within the interior of the fire that is not threatening containment lines. This fire is in patrol status with daily monitoring by aircraft and engine patrols.
Woods Creek Fire
- Acreage: 15,252; Containment: 0%; Start date: July 10; Cause: Lightning; Personnel assigned: 265
- The Woods Creek fire continues to burn in inaccessible terrain in the Big Belt Mountains, about 16 miles northeast of Townsend. Firefighters stopped fire advance when it moved out of timber into open, grassy areas near Clear Creek. Firefighters continue to secure firelines, mostly with bulldozer lines, and are providing structure protection for the Thompson Guard Station, communications equipment, a powerline corridor, and structures in the Confederate Gulch area. A west wind yesterday helped with successful structure protection in Confederate Gulch. A mandatory evacuation order issued by the Broadwater County Sheriff’s Office remains in place for the Woods Creek Fire, covering everything east of Highway 284 between Gravely Lane on the north and Dry Gulch Road on the south. Ray Creek is on high alert. Highway 284 remains open.
- On Monday, August 2, a community meeting will be held for the Woods Creek Fire at the White Sulphur Springs football field at 6 PM and at the Watson Event Center in Townsend at 8PM. There will also be a community meeting for the Balsinger/Divide Complex Monday at the Neihart Community Park at 7 PM.
- On Tuesday, August 3, there will be a community meeting for the American Fork Fire in Melville at the 191 Café at 7 PM.
- NOTE- Due to expected stormy weather today, fire managers will re-evaluate by 2 PM to determine whether it is safe to hold Monday's scheduled meetings. Call us or watch Inciweb and Facebook for updates.
The Harris Mountain Fire continues burning about ten miles south of the town of Cascade. Click here for more details.
For more information about wildfires in Montana, visit Inciweb.