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Sapphire Complex-Little Hogback

Unit Information

Lolo National Forest
U.S. Forest Service
Missoula, MT 59804

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July 17 Morning Update

Sapphire Complex-Little Hogback Wildfire
News – 7/17/2017

Slide Rock/Little Hogback Fires

Northern Rockies Type II Incident Management Team

Irv Leach Incident Commander

Daily Fact Sheet July 17, 2017 8:00 a.m.

Approximate Size: 185 acres Containment: 0%

Resources: Hand Crews: (1) Hotshot; (1) Initial Attack Engines: 1 Air Support: (4) helicopters

Heavy Equipment: 1 dozer

Total personnel: 107 Injuries: None

The Slide Rock Fire is located about 28 miles south southeast of Missoula. Leach’s Type 2 Interagency Incident Management Team assumed management of the fire at 6 am Sunday morning. They will continue working with Forest Service, Montana DNRC, and Granite County Sheriff’s Office in the suppression of both fires.

Road and trail closures (Order No. F17-047-LOLO-D3) have been established around the fire for public safety. This includes all or parts of Brewsters Creek Rd., Upper Brewsters Creek Rd., Slide Rock Mountain Rd., Upper Willow Creek Rd., and Rd. #8419. All or parts of the following trails are closed: Grizzly Creek, John Long, Butte Cabin Creek, Butte Cabin Ridge, Hogback Ridge, and Ranch Creek. Visit for details and map of the closures.

Morning Fire Update

Slide Rock: (approx. 170 ac.). There was limited fire activity on Sunday with some ground fire and single tree torching. Crews continued constructing line along Slide Rock Mountain Road on a ridge above the fire on the south side. This is to limit spread south and to protect the historic lookouts, repeater, and private structures in the area. The plan is to attempt to hook this line around the upper east and west flanks into already burned area and to slowly work this line down slope. The fire mainly burned interior fuels on Sunday. Allowing this to continue will reduce the threat of these fuels adding to future fire intensity. Helicopter water drops are being used to control the intensity of this activity so that fuels are consumed, but at a controlled rate. Monday’s plan is to continue working on line construction to secure the ridge. Skidgens are being brought in to provide water to support this effort since the terrain and ground conditions are too extreme for engines to access.

Little Hogback: (approx. 15 ac.). This fire experienced little growth on Sunday. Some single tree torching was observed. Several retardant drops were made to keep the fire within its perimeter. Helicopters dropped water on hot spots to minimize spread. A firefighter was able to access the fire area on the ground and gain valuable observations to help determine the best tactics to use. The team is working with the District to develop a plan that can be implemented safely and result in suppression of the fire. Much of the grass is still green, but heavier fuels are dry and the fire is skipping around these green islands. There is an excessive buildup of standing dead and down fuels that increases complexity of managing this fire. A communications repeater is being flown in and installed to improve communications ability.

Weather: We are experiencing one of the driest previous 30 days for this time recorded in the Missoula area. It is also the hottest summer to date in 10 years. Fuels are drying at a rapid rate. Weather over the next several days will be warm (temps 70-80 on ridges) and dry (humidity teens-low 20s during the day). Humidity will have limited recovery to 30-40% overnight.

Special Concerns: Dead trees are of extreme concern to fire fighter safety. There is an abundance of dead lodgepole pine, especially in Little Hogback, that has died over the past 10 years. These snags are an extreme hazard to firefighters as they attempt to suppress these fires and caution is being used to minimize risk while still achieving suppression objectives. In addition, steep slopes, limited access, and poor communication ability have challenged firefighters in the suppression of both fires.

More Information: Visit Inciweb at

Fire behavior can change rapidly and visitors are encouraged to contact Fire Information at 406-396-8840 or email for current fire information. Current Fire and closure information is posted on InciWeb at: and on the Lolo National Forest Facebook site at