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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 - Woods Creek, Divide Complex and American Fork 8/10/2021

Woods Creek Fire Wildfire
News – 8/10/2021

Divide Complex Daily Update

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

American Fork, Balsinger, Ellis and Woods Creek fires

 Phone: 406-426-9612 (8 a.m. – 8 p.m.) 



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

Monday, the Meagher County Sheriff’s Department changed the Smith Creek evacuation notice to pre-evacuation.

Please note: A virtual community meeting about all fires will be tonight at 7 p.m. Join ZoomGov Meeting     Meeting ID: 160 078 7603

or watch on Facebook Live at: or

While the recent rain reduced fire activity and allowed firefighters to go directly to the fire’s edge to fight the fires in some areas, it also made unsurfaced roads wet and susceptible to damage from firefighting vehicles. To protect these roads, firefighters stayed off the roads in some areas or waited for them to dry before accessing them. Although fire behavior was minimal yesterday, heat still remains and flames will pop up as the vegetation dries. As fire behavior analyst Greg Titus said, “This fire may seem calm, but all fires start with a smoke. This fire is not done.”

American Fork

Acreage: 19,028 Containment: 10% Start date: July 17, 2021 Cause: Lightning Personnel: 82
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 fire area received between 0.3 – 0.6 inch of rainfall Sunday, so fire behavior was minimal yesterday. This morning the RH was 40%, with winds clocking up to 40 mph. Pockets of heat remain near Shields River, Lodgepole Creek and Loco Mountain. Firefighters will assess where it grew in that area and look for places to construct line. This morning, firefighters will monitor and build fireline directly at the fire’s edge. Providing structure protection in the Shields River area remains a primary focus. Firefighters will mop up and tie in line around Loop Road and Crandall Creek. Crews are putting in direct line where possible around the area near Buck Creek, where a finger of fire grew Saturday. Crews will use a chipper to remove burnable vegetation along Shields River and Bennet Creek roads to create fire breaks and construct fireline.  

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: 301

The Balsinger Fire is burning about five miles west of Neihart, Montana. Out of all fires, the Balsinger Fire received the most rain Sunday, with 1.4 inches measured at one rain gauge. Fire behavior was minimal. Diminished fire behavior is expected today on all areas of the fire due to the rainfall. Areas of heat, such as those south of Thunder Mountain, may show back up today as fuels dry. Crews will be in monitor and patrol status today, going direct where safe to do so. Divide Road toward Deer Creek is also still showing heat. Firefighters continue to protect the communities of Neihart and Monarch, both about four miles from the fire’s edge. 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. Heavy and live fuels are still at critical levels and will continue to smolder until the fuels are fully consumed or a significant amount of rain falls.

Woods Creek Fire

Acreage: 45,590 Containment: 3% Start date: July 10, 2021 Cause: Lightning Personnel: 405

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. Fire behavior was minimal with creeping and smoldering in heavy fuels that were sheltered from the rain. Most of the fire area received up to ½ inch from the storms that moved through. 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. 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 handline 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.  Crews are constructing line to New River Road. Mop up and patrol the area around Thompson Guard Station will continue. 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.

A pre-evacuation order for Smith Creek subdivision was issued by the Meagher County Sheriff’s Office.

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.

The Meagher County Sheriff’s Office issued a Pre-Evacuation Notice for Grassy Mountain residents north of Highway 12.

NEW: We received official word Monday night from Meagher County Sheriff’s Department that the Smith Creek evacuation notice has been changed to pre-evac effective immediately.


All fires in our area received over ½ inch rain and strong winds Sunday, from 30-50 mph. Woods Creek experienced severe thunderstorms, while Balsinger received wetting rain between ¾ to 1 ¼ inches. Temperatures rebound today and relative humidity levels decrease. As the inversion breaks, west winds will pick up 10-20 mph, with gusts up to 40 mph. There will be a slight chance of thunderstorms over higher terrain in the late afternoons at the end of the week. Above normal temperatures are expected from Wednesday through the weekend with afternoon relative humidity values dropping below 20 percent. Diminished fire behavior today is expected on all divisions due to recent rainfall, but areas of heat will show back up as fuels dry. Firefighters will watch for smoldering heat.


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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