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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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Daily Fire Update 8/4/2021

Woods Creek Fire Wildfire
News – 8/4/2021

Divide Complex Daily Update

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

American Fork, Balsinger, Ellis and Woods Creek fires

Phone: 406-426-9612 (8 a.m. – 8 p.m.)




There will be an in-person community meeting at the Monarch Fire Department [7 Montana Ave., Monarch, MT 59463] this evening at 1900.

Monday’s rain helped moderate fire behavior in the grass and fine fuels, allowing firefighters to “take a tactical pause to evaluate progress,” said Operations Section Chief Troy Floyd. However; not all areas of the fire received a wetting rain, and still have very dry vegetation. Yesterday, low visibility restricted some air operations in the morning, but helicopters were able to operate by the afternoon.

American Fork

Acreage: 14,397 Containment: 10% Start date: July 17, 2021 Cause: Lightning Personnel: 142
The American Fork Fire is burning in the Crazy Mountains, about 24 miles southwest of Harlowton, Montana. A mandatory evacuation is still in effect for the Smith Creek area and portions of the Upper Shields River. Crews worked on remaining spots in the Shields River area yesterday and with a wetting rain, were able to engage the fire at its edge in grassy meadows and take a closer look at fire in timber stringers. 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 will also address threats to grazing meadows. Today, firefighters will watch for potential fire activity in the Crandall Creek area if west winds align with topography. Crews continue to remove burnable vegetation along Shields River and Bennet Creek roads to create fire breaks. 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, in cooperation with private landowners. Private landowners are helping firefighters by offering sources of water to fight the fire.

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: 342

The Balsinger Fire is burning about five miles west of Neihart, Montana. The southeast corner of the fire received more than an inch of rain. Fire growth on the southeast side has been slowed by a game trail. No movement in the Thunder Mountain area was observed yesterday and firefighters checked hot spots in this area. 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. They will assess where they can directly engage the fire at its edge and are providing structure protection. Liaison Officers are contacting residents of Monarch in preparation of doing some tree thinning to make a fuel break. Work continues to mop up and improve line to keep the fire from reaching Keegan Peak and Belt Park Butte. Interior smoke will continue to be visible. Firefighters will assess road conditions and fire activity in the Thunder Mountain, Tillinghast Creek, and southeast side of the fire.

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: 18,107 Containment: 0% Start date: July 10, 2021 Cause: Lightning Personnel: 249

The Woods Creek Fire continues to burn in inaccessible terrain in the Big Belt Mountains, about 16 miles northeast of Townsend, Montana. Firefighters are securing firelines, mostly with bulldozers. The fire received little rain Monday and continues to back down to firelines, but did not grow much yesterday. Moderated fire conditions allowed firefighters to get closer to timber stringers and improve lines around the western edge of the fire. They protected a historic 1866 cemetery in that area. They will be constructing fireline as needed to keep fire south of Trail 336. Dozers continue to construct line south to Holloway Gulch and Ray Creek, along the western edge of the fire. 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. Fire could become active in the Boulder Creek, Duck Creek, and Gypsy Creek areas today. 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 remains in place for residences in the Shields River Road area.

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, there should be clear skies in the morning, becoming partly sunny with isolated showers and thunderstorms. Humidity levels are expected to be lower today, with gusty winds at times.

There was good rain in places; however, Woods Creek only received 1/10.” The American Fork received a lot of lightning and limited rain. Humidity’s were higher yesterday, allowing crews to assess and evaluate potential line construction. It will be sunny in mornings, with potential for thunderstorms in afternoons, until Friday when we expect a new front with strong winds.


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.

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