Helena - Lewis and Clark National Forest
U.S. Forest Service
2880 Skyway Drive
Helena, MT 59602
Divide Complex Daily Update
Saturday, August 7, 2021
American Fork, Balsinger, Ellis and Woods Creek fires
Phone: 406-426-9612 (8 a.m. – 8 p.m.)
The Divide Complex Incident Command Post is now headquartered at the Jackson Ranch in White Sulphur Springs due to the opening of the White Sulphur Springs School. Today there is potential for fire growth with long-range spotting. Running fire and long-range spotting could result in high rates of spread on active fires where firelines are not secure. The firefighters yesterday had a great day of firefighting overall.
Acreage: 17,537 Containment: 10% Start date: July 17, 2021 Cause: Lightning Personnel: 132
The American Fork Fire is burning in the central part of the Crazy Mountains, about 24 miles southwest of Harlowton, Montana. It’s burning on both the east and west side of the mountain range, approximately 12 miles northeast from Wilsall and approximately six miles west from Melville. A mandatory evacuation is still in effect for the Smith Creek area and portions of the Upper Shields River. Fire activity slowed some yesterday, allowing firefighters to tie in more dozer and hand lines. They built fireline around a spot fire west of Crandall Creek. Crews continue to remove burnable vegetation along Shields River and Bennet Creek roads to create fire breaks and construct fireline. A chipper will be used to clean up roadways that were used as control line. The inside of the fire is looking good, with some heat on the south side. Firefighters are evaluating 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 9,824 Ellis 1,227 Containment: 26% Start date: July 8, 2021 Cause: Balsinger -Lightning; Ellis – under investigation. Personnel: 314
The Balsinger Fire is burning about five miles west of Neihart, Montana. The fire is still growing in isolated areas, with heat remaining around Thunder Mountain. Firefighters are focusing efforts on protecting the communities of Neihart and Monarch. Hoselays are complete in Monarch, with structures prepped. While not much heat remains on the east side, it persists on the west side. Areas protected include: Belt Park, Deer Creek Estates and the Highway 89 corridor. Today, crews will monitor, mop up, lay hose lines and hold, maintain and patrol firelines along Divide Road. The focus will be on keeping fire north of Divide Road. The fire was active south of Thunder Mountain. Areas of concern today include Thunder Mountain and Pilgrim Creek. Areas retaining heat where winds may align with terrain and dry vegetation include the Divide Road and Tillinghast Creek area. Firefighters should complete the shaded fuel break in the Monarch area. Work continues to mop up and improve line to keep the fire from reaching Keegan Peak and Belt Park Butte. Night crews are experiencing more fire activity and will monitor and hold firelines. The focus for today remains point/structure protection, making sure livestock has been removed to safe areas, reassessing the fire perimeter to establish anchor points and improving established anchor points. Firefighters will support private landowners with dozer line construction south to Holloway Gulch. Structure protection group will contact landowners in the community of Prospect, west of the fire, to discuss structure protection in that area.
The Ellis Fire, about 2.5 miles southwest of Smith River, Montana, is in patrol status with daily monitoring by aircraft. No smoke has been observed from this fire in the past few days.
Woods Creek Fire inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7649
Acreage: 25,745 Containment: 4% Start date: July 10, 2021 Cause: Lightning Personnel: 264
The Woods Creek Fire continues to burn in inaccessible terrain in the Big Belt Mountains, about 16 miles northeast of Townsend, Montana, and has moved onto private lands. This fire was active yesterday with running, flanking and group tree torching. The fire is being wind driven and is moving east, as well as north in the Boulder Creek area. Fire made a big run out of Boulder Creek yesterday to Moose Creek, where it got into the grasslands last night. Heavy fuels hold heat, causing the potential for flare-up at many areas around the fire. This fire has multiple drainages that when aligned with winds will produce more than one head fire. Yesterday, the fire spotted west of Loop Road and the fire was backing in that vicinity. Firefighters are working to connect firelines all around that area. Air operations were busy on the Woods Creek fire yesterday but were hindered part of the day due to smoke.
A structure protection group will be working in the Woods Creek Fire to assess structure protection needs. Crews will complete and patrol direct line from Boulder Creek to North Fork Duck Creek to prevent further spread of fire to the north and west. Crews will continue working with landowners to establish indirect control line from North Fork Duck Creek south to Duck Creek Road. Firefighters are constructing and securing firelines, installing hose lays in the Duck Creek and Baldy Creek areas and tying in lines near private property. Crews will continue to assess north to Elk Creek and south to Butte Creek. Mop up will continue around the Thompson Guard Station and historical mine area. The fire pushed out along Gipsy Creek yesterday. Crews put in dozer lines north of this area and then did some tactical burning of several green pockets of vegetation between the fire’s edge and containment lines. That operation will continue today, and mop up as needed. Areas of concern include Mule Creek, Moose Creek and Needles, on the southeastern edge. Night crews will monitor and control fire spread, and provide structure protection, in coordination with 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 mandatory evacuation of six cabins and Big Birch Creek was put in place on Thursday. One outbuilding has been reported lost on the fire.
American Fork Fire
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.
Woods Creek Fie
The Broadwater County Sheriff’s Office has issued an evacuation order in connection with the Woods Creek Fire.
Today is expected to be dry, with potential for active fire behavior. Strong 30 mph winds will likely come from the west, with 40-50 mph gusts on Balsinger and 30-40 mph winds on American Fork and Woods Creek fires. Expect active fire behavior with surface fire, group torching and spotting. Wind-driven fire is the concern. When the wind reaches heat near fuels, strong fire runs may result. Much unburned fuel remains between active edges of the fires and primary or contingency lines in several areas.
Strong winds blew through fire areas yesterday. Westerly winds today will continue through the weekend, with a Fire Weather Watch Sunday. Fuels continue to dry out, with a 73 percent probability for ignition.
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. This also includes the Big Elk Creek Trailhead.
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.