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Woods Creek Fire

Unit Information

Helena - Lewis and Clark National Forest
U.S. Forest Service
2880 Skyway Drive
Helena, MT 59602

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Divide Complex Daily Update 7/31/21

Woods Creek Fire Wildfire
News – 7/31/2021

 A community meeting for information on the American Fork Fire will be held Sunday at 7:00 p.m. at the fairgrounds in Wilsall, MT.


The Southern Area Incident Management Red Team, a Type 1 Team, joined command of the fire at 7 a.m. on Saturday July 31, 2021. Acreages of fires reflect IR flight taken this morning.


American Fork Fire 14,397 Containment: 10% Start date: July 17, 2021 Cause: Lightning Personnel: 226
The American Fork fire is burning northeast of the Crazy Mountains, 24 miles southwest of Harlowton. The northwest part of the fire in the Shields River drainage was most active yesterday with fire moving down timber stringers into more open areas, but overall growth was minimal. Some spot fires burned south of the Shields River but did not expand much. Firefighters will continue to scout for fireline locations in the Shields River drainage today. Helicopter bucket work helped cool hot spots in the Sweetwater area yesterday. Existing roads and constructed fireline to the east and northeast of the fire have been preventing fire progression in that direction and protecting structures. To the south, rocky areas with sparse vegetation are helping firefighters check fire spread. The 2017 Blacktail Fire footprint should temper fire progression to the north. Firefighters will continue building firelines there today. Firefighters will fight the fire directly as necessary in areas without roads or natural barriers.

Balsinger and Ellis fires Balsinger 8,511 Ellis 1,227 Containment: 26% Start date: July 8, 2021 Cause: Balsinger -Lightning; Ellis – under investigation. Personnel: 227The Balsinger Fire is burning about seven miles west of Neihart. Fire activity was moderate yesterday with limited growth. Firefighters used helicopter water drops effectively to cool hot spots yesterday afternoon, particularly in the northeast and southwest areas of the fire. Some tactical burning operations on the north side of the fire helped with structure protection. Logging equipment removed some trees along key roads to create shaded fire breaks. Additional helicopter work, particularly in the Thunder Mountain area, should help cool advancing fire and hot spots today. The Tillinghast Creek drainage on the east side of the fire remains an area of concern. Firefighters will increase focus on structure preparation and protection there today. The southeast corner of the fire was active yesterday. Firefighters continue to build fireline in that area. Night crews are assigned for overnight monitoring of the fire.
 The Ellis Fire, about 2.5 miles southwest of Smith River, had limited fire activity yesterday. Crews continue to mop up hot spots near the edge of the fire.  Firefighters will monitor the fire from aircraft today.

Woods Creek Fire 15,252 Containment: 0% Start date: July 10, 2021 Cause: Lightning Personnel: 129The Woods Creek fire is in the Big Belt Mountains, about 16 miles northeast of Townsend. Southeast winds last night caused a significant push of the fire to the northwest. Firefighters were able to stop the advance when the fire moved out of timber into open grassy areas. Firefighters will secure flanks and mop up hot spots on that area this morning. Retardant drops from air tankers helped yesterday to protect a historic ranger station and a radio repeater. Additional drops today will protect a powerline crossing the fire area. Helicopter bucket drops cooled hotspots yesterday in the Duck Creek drainage. Firefighters continue to focus efforts on that area today, particularly for structure protection. A structure protection group and two hotshot crews moved to this fire from other fires in the complex. Firefighters will monitor the fire overnight.

Evacuation Notices

·         A pre-evacuation order remains in place for the residences in the Shields River Road area.

·         An evacuation order for Belt Park, issued by the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office, remains in place.

·         A pre-evacuation order was issued for the area from the Belt Creek Ranger Station to Monarch and from west of Monarch to the confluence of Pilgrim Creek and Belt Creek.

·         The Broadwater County Sheriff’s Office has issued an evacuation order in connection with the Woods Creek Fire.


Mostly clear skies in the morning will give way to increasing clouds, with a chance of isolated showers and thunderstorms this afternoon. Temperatures will remain above average, reaching the upper 70s on ridges and lower 80s in valleys.  Minimum relative humidities will be in the mid to upper 20s. Terrain-driven winds along slopes and valleys will be about 8 to 10 mph, while ridgetop winds will push from the east-southeast at 15 to 20 mph, gusting to 35 mph. Erratic wind gusts up to 40 mph are possible with any shower or storm. Humidity should recover well tonight, with low temperatures in the 50s. Partly sunny skies are forecasted for Sunday, with a chance of showers and isolated thunderstorms in the afternoon and highs in the 70s. Moister air will develop starting Monday, with increased chances of wetting rains and thunderstorms.


1.       Temporary flight restrictions (TFR) remain in place for the American Fork Fire and the Balsinger Fire.

2.       The Belt Creek-White Sulphur Springs Ranger District, Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest expanded the closure area for the Balsinger Fire on July 29.

3.       The closure order for the part of the American Fork fire  on the Custer-Gallatin National Forests was updated on July 29 (map).

4.       The Big Elk Creek Trail (#640) on the part of the American Fork fire  on the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest remains in place.

5.       The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest issued an area closure for the Woods Creek Fire on July 26, 2021.


·         Help prevent additional fire starts by following all campfire restrictions and fire-related closures.

·         NEW: As of July 30, most of the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest has moved to stage 2 fire restrictions.

·         Stage 1 fire restrictions remain in place for the Custer Gallatin National Forest. The Custer Gallatin has also restricted campfires in all locations.

·         Visit for statewide fire restriction information.

·         Visit the website for more information on air quality near you.

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