Skip to main content

Woods Creek Fire

Unit Information

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

USFS Shield

daily Fire Update for 8/3/2021

Woods Creek Fire Wildfire
News – 8/3/2021

Divide Complex Daily Update

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

American Fork, Balsinger, Ellis and Woods Creek fires

Phone: 406-426-9612 (8 a.m. – 8 p.m.)




On Tuesday (8/3), there will be a community meeting for the American Fork Fire in Melville at the 191 Café at 7 PM.  

Yesterday rainfall on the fires ranged from 1/10” to 1” and lighting strikes were detected throughout the fire complex. The rain helped moderate fire behavior, but because not all areas of the fire received a wetting rain, some areas are sheltered and burnable vegetation is still dry.

American Fork

Acreage: 14,397 Containment: 10% Start date: July 17, 2021 Cause: Lightning Personnel: 145
The American Fork Fire is burning northeast of the Crazy Mountains, about 24 miles southwest of Harlowton, Montana. The fire continued to be active in the western edge and did receive some rain yesterday. Gusty winds associated with stormy weather yesterday pushed the fire north in the Crandall Creek area, where firefighters will engage the fire at its edge. The goal is to keep the fire from burning private property in this area. We are working with private landowners to identify areas for firelines to prevent further spread on the west side. Most of the spot fires in the Shields River area were contained yesterday. Today, crews are working on the few remaining spots. Firefighters are providing structure protection for public and private structures in the Shields River and Smith Creek areas, including several area ranches such as the SVR and Montana Eagle Ranch. They are clearing burnable vegetation along Shields River and Bennet Creek roads to act as fire breaks. A mandatory evacuation is still in effect for the Smith Creek area and portions of the Upper Shields River. A structure protection group is currently triaging and developing a plan to protect structures in that area. Crews are monitoring the northern end with the expectation that the 2017 Blacktail Fire footprint will temper fire progression to the north. The eastern side of the fire is showing limited fire activity. Fireline construction and mop up continues in the southeast edge 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, 2021 Cause: Balsinger -Lightning; Ellis – under investigation. Personnel: 277

The Balsinger Fire is burning about seven miles west of Neihart, Montana. The fire was active yesterday with smoke visible in the Thunder Mountain area and southeast corner of the fire. Crews continued to improve line on a secondary containment line along Dry Park Road, with the goal of keeping the fire north of Divide Road to keep fire from the US 89 corridor and Niehart. Work continues to mop up and improve line to keep the fire from reaching Keegan Park and Belt Park Butte. Interior smoke will continue to be visible.

The Ellis Fire, about 2.5 miles southwest of Smith River, Montana, continues to show limited fire activity. This fire is in patrol status with daily monitoring by aircraft.

Woods Creek Fire

Acreage: 15,252 Containment: 0% Start date: July 10, 2021 Cause: Lightning Personnel: 247

The Woods Creek fire continues to burn in inaccessible terrain in the Big Belt Mountains, about 16 miles northeast of Townsend, Montana. It continues to back down to firelines. Firefighters continue to secure firelines, mostly with bulldozer lines. At the western edge of the fire, they are constructing line south to Ray Creek. Crews are providing structure protection for the Thompson Guard Station, communications equipment, a powerline corridor and structures in the Confederate Gulch and Big Birch communities. Yesterday helicopters dropped water near the Thompson Guard station to cool the fire. Fire burned to the Boulder Creek drainage at the northwest edge of the fire yesterday. Crews are building firelines while fire burns down toward them. Confederate Gulch and Duck Creek remain focus areas for structure protection and line construction.

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.

Evacuation Notices

  • A pre-evacuation order was issued by Meagher County Sheriff for the Smith River corridor from Camp Baker to the confluence with Blacktail Creek.
  • An evacuation order for Smith Creek subdivision was issued by the Meagher County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday, 7/31.
  • 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.


Lightning accompanied the rain yesterday, causing concerns for firefighters. Today is expected to be hotter, with the potential for showers in the afternoon. While the fire didn’t move much yesterday, some pockets of heat remain on all the fires which will likely result in active fire behavior today.

A weak inversion is trapping the fog and smoke closer to the ground. This should break up mid-morning and allow conditions to heat up. Clouds will build in the afternoon in higher elevations. Some lingering moisture will allow for a chance of showers and thunderstorms through the day.

Wednesday and Thursday, we expect hot and dry weather. Forecasts predict it to be mostly sunny with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon. 

While the rain is helpful where received, some sheltered areas still contain a lot of heat and will likely experience active fire behavior.


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

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.

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

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.

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.

Most of the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest is in 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.