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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 8/9/21

Woods Creek Fire Wildfire
News – 8/9/2021

Divide Complex Daily Update

Monday, August 9, 2021

American Fork, Balsinger, Ellis and Woods Creek fires

Phone: 406-426-9612 (8 a.m. – 8 p.m.)




As the Southern Area Incident Management Red Team’s assignment is coming to a close this week, we want to acknowledge those who have helped us: agencies, cooperators, local fire departments, ranchers and other landowners, Sheriff’s offices, community leaders, businesses and volunteers. You all have put forth a tireless effort in putting out these fires and have been gracious hosts.

We sincerely appreciate you and all you’ve done to help fight the American Fork, Divide Complex and Woods Creek fires. A sincere “Thank You” is not nearly enough to convey our gratitude. Many of us look forward to coming back to visit when skies are blue. From the Southern Area Incident Management Red Team, Thank You!

Yesterday the Meagher County Sheriff’s Office issued an Evacuation Notice for Grassy Mountain residents north of Highway 12.

Due to severe storms yesterday, firefighters temporarily disengaged from the line to shelter in safe areas. Fire Behavior Analyst Greg Titus said, “We expect zero fire movement today. It’s a good day to increase situational awareness to see where the American Fork and Woods Creek Fires grew yesterday.” Today firefighters will watch for potential areas of fire well away from the current fire edge due to potential long-range spotting from high winds. Firefighters will assess wet roads to prevent damage and trees that could have been weakened from yesterday’s strong winds. The priority for today will be to go direct wherever possible to increase containment. Crews will evaluate wet road conditions before driving on them to prevent damage.

American Fork

Acreage: 19,028 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 western section was active yesterday near Shields River and Lodgepole Creek, where the fire moved north and west towards Loco Mountain. Firefighters will assess where it pushed out and look for places to construct line. The area received over ½ inch rainfall yesterday. This morning, firefighters will go in by foot as needed to monitor and go direct with line construction. Providing structure protection in the Shields River area remains a primary focus. Firefighters will mop up and tie in line around Loop Road. Crews are putting in direct line where possible around the area near Buck Creek, where a finger of fire grew Saturday. Crews continue to remove burnable vegetation along Shields River and Bennet Creek roads to create fire breaks and construct fireline. They continue using a chipper to clean up roadways that were used as control lines.

Balsinger and Ellis fires

Acreage: Balsinger 8,614 Ellis 1,220 Containment: 45% Start date: July 8, 2021 Cause: Balsinger -Lightning; Ellis – under investigation. Personnel: 305

The Balsinger Fire is burning about five miles west of Neihart, Montana. The fire received solid rainfall yesterday, ranging from ¾ to 1-1/4 inches. Diminished fire behavior is expected today on all divisions due to the rainfall. Areas of heat, such as those south of Thunder Mountain, may show back up tomorrow as fuels dry. Crews will be in monitor and patrol status today. They will mop up areas with remaining heat in the Divide Road area. They also plan to improve road access on the west side by opening up Divide Road toward Deer Creek. They are focusing efforts on protecting the communities of Neihart and Monarch. Crews have completed structure protection in Monarch. 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.

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: 40,157 Containment: 3% Start date: July 10, 2021 Cause: Lightning Personnel: 431

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 high winds that may have caused a few spots before rain fell. A north wind pushed the fire south, where crews will mop up any hot spots in that area. Most of the fire area received up to ½ inch rainfall from the storms that moved through. Firefighters will scout for spot fires south of the southeastern corner of the fire. Today, crews are constructing more line on the eastern edge and scouting for line locations on the northern end. Dozers have been pushing in line to the northeast, while firefighters continue assessing line to the north and northeast. Crews are going direct and mopping up around Confederate Gulch. Crews will be monitoring and improving constructed lines on private lands in cooperation with local landowners. A very large airtanker made two retardant drops in the flats along the southeastern edge of the fire yesterday. Air operations will continue monitoring this area. Firefighters will use a combination of equipment and hand crews to reduce fire spread to the East along Big Birch drainage and surrounding private lands.

Firefighters have been working on line construction and structure protection and will continue assessing options for line construction north to Elk Creek and south to Butte Creek, connecting line from Boulder Creek to North Fork Duck Creek and south to Duck Creek Road. The area around Thompson Guard Station has been burned out and mop up and patrol of that area will continue. Night crews will monitor, patrol 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 is in place.

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.

NEW: Yesterday the Meagher County Sheriff’s Office issued an Evacuation Notice for Grassy Mountain residents north of Highway 12.


All fires in our area received over ½ inch rain and strong winds yesterday, from 30-50 mph. Woods Creek experienced severe thunderstorms, while Balsinger received wetting rain between ¾ to 1 ¼ inches. Below normal temperatures are expected today (60’s) and tonight (40’s) with moderate relative humidity values. Cooler temperatures today should contribute to less active fire behavior. The weather will begin drying out today and will continue that trend through the end of the week. Temperatures will rebound Tuesday and above normal temperatures are expected from Wednesday through the weekend with afternoon relative humidity values dropping to near 20%. The fire areas will experience moderate-strong westerly ridgetop winds through Tuesday, then weakening.


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.

Visit the website for more information on air quality near you.

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