Helena - Lewis and Clark National Forest
U.S. Forest Service
2880 Skyway Drive
Helena, MT 59602
Divide Complex Daily Update
Thursday, August 5, 2021
American Fork, Balsinger, Ellis and Woods Creek fires
Phone: 406-426-9612 (8 a.m. – 8 p.m.)
A Red Flag Warning is in effect from noon to midnight today for dry lightning and gusty outflow winds.
Wednesday was a day of building firelines, mopping up, tying in lines and protecting structures. Air operations supported firefighting yesterday with five helicopters and two air attack aircraft. Air attack discovered a new fire southwest of the American Fork Fire. Aircraft knocked it down, allowing firefighters to hike to where it was burning in steep terrain. They constructed fireline around the 1/2-acre fire.
Acreage: 14,738 Containment: 10% Start date: July 17, 2021 Cause: Lightning Personnel: 122
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. Significant heat remains south of Shields River. Crews held spots in this area and protected a private structure. Firefighters were successful in using aircraft to cool down several hot spots in the Crandall Creek area. Dugout Creek and Lodgepole Creek, east of Crandall Creek, are a concern today. Crews continue to remove burnable vegetation along Shields River and Bennet Creek roads to create fire breaks, construct fireline, and mop up in the southeast edge of the fire near Sweetgrass Creek. They are evaluating any internal unburned pockets of vegetation that could threaten containment lines. Private landowners are helping firefighters by offering sources of water to fight the fire. The southern and northern edges show minimal heat. Crews will patrol and mop up there.
Acreage: Balsinger 9,788 Ellis 1,227 Containment: 26% Start date: July 8, 2021 Cause: Balsinger -Lightning; Ellis – under investigation. Personnel: 331
The Balsinger Fire is burning about five miles west of Neihart, Montana. Yesterday Operations Section Chief Troy Floyd said “All in all, it was a very quiet day on Balsinger,” which received more than an inch of rain in some areas on Monday. This allowed firefighters to make good progress on mop up and secondary line construction. The fire on the southeast side showed little movement and was held by a game trail. There was also no movement in the Thunder Mountain area, and hose lays and fireline construction continued in the Monarch area. Strong winds and a red flag warning today may challenge firelines, so firefighters are focusing on protecting the communities of Neihart and Monarch. Other areas protected include: Belt Park, Deer Creek Estates, the Tenderfoot Experimental Forest and the Highway 89 corridor. Today, crews will monitor, mop up, lay hose lines, hold, maintain and patrol firelines all along Divide Road. Areas retaining heat where winds may align with terrain and dry vegetation include the Divide Road and Tillinghast Creek area. Liaison Officers met with residents of Monarch last night at the Monarch Fire Department 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. Night crews will monitor and hold firelines.
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. Meagher County Sheriff Jon Lopp has rescinded the pre-evacuation order associated with the Ellis Fire for the Smith River corridor from Camp Baker to the confluence with Blacktail Creek.
Woods Creek Fire inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7649
Acreage: 20,146 Containment: 0% Start date: July 10, 2021 Cause: Lightning Personnel: 234
The Woods Creek Fire continues to burn in inaccessible terrain in the Big Belt Mountains, about 16 miles northeast of Townsend, Montana. This fire was active yesterday. Firefighters are constructing and securing firelines, installing hose lays in the Duck Creek and Baldy Creek areas, and tying in lines near private property. Sprinklers are in place at Confederate Gulch, where additional hose lays and structure prep have been the focus. On the southeastern end of the fire, hose lays are assisting mop up efforts. Heat remains near the Thompson Guard Station and mine in that area. Firefighters are engaging the fire directly where it is safe to do so. Fire will likely be active along the eastern edge in the Atlantic Creek, Boulder Creek, Duck Creek and Gipsy Creek areas today. Confederate Gulch and Duck Creek remain focus areas for structure protection and line construction. Night crews will monitor and control fire spread, and provide structure protection, in coordination with the local fire departments. 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.
A pre-evacuation order remains in place for residences in the Shields River Road area.
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.
A Red Flag Warning is in effect from noon to midnight today for dry lightning and gusty outflow winds. Thunderstorm activity will increase in the afternoon and continue into the evening. A temperature drop of about 10 degrees is expected for daytime high temperatures, along with isolated/scattered showers and thunderstorms for Friday through the weekend.
Today will be partly cloudy, cool in the morning with good RH recoveries. It will become hot and dry by late morning. Thunderstorm activity will increase in the afternoon and continue into the evening with dry lightning and strong gusty winds. Moderate SW ridgetop winds are anticipated.
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 Big Elk Creek Trail (#640) on the part of the American Fork fire on the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest remains in place.
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.
Visit www.MTFireInfo.org for statewide fire restriction information.
Visit the AirNow.gov website for more information on air quality near you.