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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 for 8/8/2021

Woods Creek Fire Wildfire
News – 8/8/2021

Divide Complex Daily Update

Sunday, August 8, 2021

American Fork, Balsinger, Ellis and Woods Creek fires

Phone: 406-426-9612 (8 a.m. – 8 p.m.)




A community meeting tonight (August 8th) is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Veteran’s Park in Wilsall. A weather front is expected to pass through the area later today and depending on the timing of it, we may need to postpone the meeting to Monday evening at the same time. Please monitor Facebook, call or email us about updated information on the status of the meeting. We will livestream through Facebook Live and if connectivity is poor, we will record and post the meeting as soon as we can.

The Meagher County Sheriff’s Office issued a Pre-Evacuation Notice for residents on Birky Road and Ramspeck Lane around 5 p.m. yesterday.

A RED FLAG warning is in effect today for the American Fork and Woods Creek fires. Winds will shift from the southwest to the northwest, with gusts up to 60 mph. 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.

American Fork

Acreage: 18,737 Containment: 10% Start date: July 17, 2021 Cause: Lightning Personnel: 87
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. The northeast and east sides of the fire saw little movement and will mostly be in patrol/mop-up status today. Fire is not active in the interior of the fire but some heat remains on the south side, where a finger of fire grew yesterday near Buck Creek. It didn’t grow much, but put up a lot of smoke in the southwest edge of the fire. Crews are working in that area with direct line where possible. Crandall Creek and Lodgepole Creek on the west side of the fire still retain heat and are areas of focus today. Providing structure protection in the Shields River area remains a primary focus. Firefighters will mop up around Loop Road. Crews continue to remove burnable vegetation along Shields River and Bennet Creek roads to create fire breaks and construct fireline. They will use a chipper to clean up roadways that were used as control line.

Balsinger and Ellis fires

Acreage: Balsinger 8,614 Ellis 1,220 Containment: 26% Start date: July 8, 2021 Cause: Balsinger -Lightning; Ellis – under investigation. Personnel: 287

The Balsinger Fire is burning about five miles west of Neihart, Montana. The fire is still growing in isolated areas, with heat remaining south of Thunder Mountain, where firefighters will cool any fire activity with helicopters. They are focusing efforts on protecting the communities of Neihart and Monarch. Hose lays are complete in Monarch, with structures prepped and crews continue to work on the shaded fuel break at Monarch. Yesterday the fire was active south of Thunder Mountain, with some growth. Divide Road in the Tillinghast Creek drainage remains an area of concern. Today, crews will monitor, mop up, lay hose lines and hold, maintain and patrol firelines along Divide Road with a focus on keeping fire north of the road. The Balsinger Fire is expected to get some rain today. 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. A very large airtanker dropped retardant yesterday around the small community of Deer Park. Due to inaccessibility of the area, the structure protection group and landowners determined that was the best option to protect 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

Acreage: 40,156 Containment: 2% Start date: July 10, 2021 Cause: Lightning Personnel: 302

The Woods Creek Fire continues to burn 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 North Fork Elk Creek area. Yesterday, the fire burned in the Moose Creek area to Elk Creek. Crews did a burnout to stop fire growth in that area. Fire ran from Pickfoot Creek on the east side of the fire towards a private ranch. Firefighters have been working on line construction and structure protection. Crews will continue assessing options for line construction north to Elk Creek and south to Butte Creek.

The west side of the fire is not growing and firefighters are making progress on improving containment. It is backing down Confederate Gulch and crews continue to mop up the area. The area around Thompson Guard Station has been burned out and mop up and patrol of that area will continue. Firefighters will be alert in the Gipsy Creek area, especially Big and Little Birch Creek drainages because these drainages align with forecasted southwest wind. Other areas of concern today include Democrat Gulch, Ayers Gulch, Keep Cool Creek, Mule Creek and Moose Creek. Night crews will monitor and control fire spread, and provide structure protection, in coordination with local fire departments. One outbuilding has been reported lost on the fire.

Evacuation Notices

American Fork Fire

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

A mandatory evacuation is still in effect for the Smith Creek area and portions of the Upper Shields River.

An evacuation order for Smith Creek subdivision was issued by the Meagher County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday, 7/31.

Balsinger Fire

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 Fire

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

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.

New: The Meagher County Sheriff’s Office issued a Pre-Evacuation Notice for residents on Birky Road and Ramspeck Lane around 5 p.m. Saturday, 8/7.


There is a RED FLAG WARNING for Woods Creek and American Fork for low humidity, strong winds and frequent lightning. Strong westerly ridgetop winds continue ahead of a potential cold front approaching from the northwest. Erratic gusty winds will accompany the front as it passes quickly through the area from mid-afternoon into the evening. A significant wind shift from southwest to west-northwest will occur as the front passes. Rainfall totals will likely be significant over the Balsinger fire, while less rain is expected over the southern fires of Woods Creek and American Fork. Strong thunderstorms will accompany the front and isolated wind gusts to 60 mph are possible, along with frequent lightning and heavy rain. Rain and thunderstorms will continue into the evening, clearing late. Ridgetop winds will be 0-20 mph, with gusts to 30 mph. Below normal temperatures are expected Monday.


Temporary flight restrictions (TFR) remain in place for the American Fork Fire , the Balsinger Fire and the Woods Creek Fire. New: the TFR on the east side of the Woods Creek Fire has been expanded.

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. This also includes the Big Elk Creek Trailhead.

The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest issued an area closure for the Woods Creek Fire on July 26, 2021. An additional closure was issued for the Woods Creek Fire August 4, 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.

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