The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for the Rice Ridge Fire area from 2pm Saturday to 9pm Sunday for hot and dry weather, atmospheric instability, gusty winds and poor overnight humidity recovery. Fire managers expect an increase in fire activity and are preparing to strengthen containment lines with increasing overnight staffing during the Red Flag period, especially in critical areas around the fire perimeter and in Double Arrow Ranch. A cold front will arrive Sunday afternoon bringing gusty winds from the southwest, however a 50 percent chance of rain could also provide much needed precipitation.
Yesterday The fire burned actively in the Swamp Creek drainage and on the east side of Rice Ridge. Firefighters utilized water and dozers built a line to limit fire growth on the southeast corner near Swamp Creek. Crews nearly completed an indirect line from Morrell Mountain Lookout to the Cottonwood Lakes Road. A specialized team from Missoula, utilized fireline explosives to safely expedite line construction in a hazardous area. Heavy equipment continued working to connect containment lines, which when completed will extend from West Morrell Road (FR-4353) to the 2015 Morrell Complex burn scar. Heavy fuel loading in Sawyer Creek hampered line construction. Aviation support was limited due to smoky conditions, resulting in poor visibility.
Today Fire officials anticipate active behavior where residents and visitors in the Seeley Lake area may see well-defined smoke columns. Firefighters are working to complete the line from Morrell Mountain Lookout to Cottonwood Lakes Road by falling and removing hazard trees. Crews will continue fuels reduction work southward along Cottonwood Lakes Road. On the west flank, heavy equipment will progress on indirect containment line from West Morrell Road to the burn scar from the Morrell Complex. The east flank will spread away from town toward the Bob Marshall Wilderness and be monitored by the air.
Fire information booths will be staffed at the Valley Market and Rovero’s Hardware Store on Highway 83 from 11am to 6pm.
In the event of an evacuation, the American Red Cross will open a shelter. It is located at the Potomac Community Center, 29827 Potomac Rd., in Potomac. The shelter is on standby, anyone seeking to pre-evacuate that requires assistance or sheltering may call the Red Cross of Montana at 1-800-272-6668. Evacuees are urged to call before leaving for the shelter, as cell phone service is limited at the shelter. More info at http://www.redcross.org/get-help/disaster-relief-and-recovery-services/find-an-open-shelter.