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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 8-16-2021

Woods Creek Fire Wildfire
News – 8/16/2021

American Fork, Balsinger, and Woods Creek Fires Update
Monday, August 16, 2021 – 9 a.m.
Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team
Dan Dallas, Incident Commander

Information phone: 406-426-9612
Email: 2021.divide@firenet.gov
Information staffing hours: 8:00 am – 8:00 pm

Special Note: There is a red flag warning for fire weather today. Use caution to prevent new fire starts.

Current Situation: Fire behavior was moderate yesterday, despite the dry, windy weather. Winds did not align with the terrain for any major fire runs. Winds are shifting today with continued warm, dry conditions. Firefighters are watching for potential spotting on the north edges of the American Fork and Woods Creek Fires with the changing wind direction. Work continues today on securing existing containment lines, direct attack where feasible, and constructing and clearing indirect and contingency lines. Night patrols continue, staffing the fire around the clock.

American Fork Fire

Acreage: 20,718 | Containment: 57% | Start date: July 17, 2021 | Cause: Lightning | Personnel: 90

The American Fork Fire is burning in the central part of the Crazy Mountains, approximately 24 miles southwest of Harlowton, Montana. An initial attack crew dug direct line yesterday in Division M, working west from the containment line at the break with Division P. Another crew did the same in Division P, working southeast along the perimeter toward Division A. Today, crews continue in the Buck Creek drainage, working east toward Division A, aiming to contain the entire south edge of the fire. On the north edge in Division M, they will anchor off the Shields River Road today, working northeast toward the Blacktail Fire scar. There are unburned pockets of fuels in the “fingers” on the north edge of the fire. Firefighters will use UAS (firefighting drones) today for infrared detection of hot spots and possibly to burn out some of those islands of fuels before the predicted weather change.

Balsinger Fire

Acreage: 8,614 | Containment: 52% | Start date: July 9, 2021 | Cause: Lightning | Personnel: 145

The Balsinger Fire is in the Little Belt Mountains, approximately five miles west of Neihart, Montana. Firefighters increased containment yesterday in the northwest portion of Divisions T and along the Divide Road in Division I. There is generally less heat and active fire behavior on this fire than the other two, but yesterday saw some hot spots and torching trees. Today, crews will mop up and secure the new containment line. In Division I. the objective is to add containment and address any hot spots along the southern edge of the fire, near Wilson Creek and Iron Mountain.

Woods Creek Fire

Acreage: 55,729 | Containment: 43% | Start date: July 10, 2021 | Cause: Lightning | Personnel: 540

The Woods Creek Fire is burning in the Big Belt Mountains, approximately 16 miles northeast of Townsend, Montana. There were small spot fires yesterday on the north edge in Division AA. A hotshot crew controlled these spots, then anchored to the containment line along the North Fork of Elk Creek, working south with heavy support from aircraft to mitigate fire behavior. They constructed a small piece of indirect line and used firing operations to burn out fuels yesterday evening. They camped in the area overnight and will continue working south today with direct line, and also building a smaller contingency line to the north. Containment line in Divisions AA and OO is secure and in patrol status. Another spot fire occurred yesterday in heavy timber mixed with light grasses on the southeast edge of the fire in the uncontained portion of Division OO. Three dozers and a helicopter addressed the spot and kept it controlled. Fire officials are examining indirect attack options in Division PP and crews are strengthening and clearing the indirect line in Divisions QQ and SS, using existing roads and tying into the forest boundary. They are also completing a safety zone in Division SS, which is an enlarged area integral to a fuel break that can protect firefighters and equipment in case of rapidly increasing fire activity. Firefighters added containment yesterday in Division YY near Confederate Gulch Road. Two other hotshot crews are anchoring to that containment line, working east toward Division AA. Firefighters are also constructing contingency line along the northern edge of the fire and may burn out small pockets of fuel today. Air support today will focus on the Woods Creek fire in Divisions AA and OO.

Weather and Fuel Conditions: Today will again be warm, dry, and windy. The predicted high temperature is 77°F at 7500 feet elevation. Humidity may be as low as 20%. Strong ridgetop winds, 15-25 mph, are expected from the southwest, with gusts up to 40 mph, especially near the American Fork Fire. Tomorrow, a strong cold front will bring cooler weather with an 80% chance of up to an inch of rain in some locations. Wind direction will change to the north. After three nights of poor humidity recovery, fuels are extremely dry. The change in winds this afternoon could provoke increasing fire behavior and there is a possibility of some dry lightning strikes.

Evacuation Notices

American Fork Fire: The Park County Sheriff’s Office has Shields River Road in pre-evacuation status. Meagher County has done the same with the Smith Creek area. County roads in the area are open. However, there are still closures in the National Forests.

Balsinger Fire: An evacuation order for Belt Park, issued by the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office, remains in place. There is a pre-evacuation order 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: Effective August 11, the Broadwater County Sheriff’s Office lifted the evacuation order covering everything east of Highway 284 between Gravely Lane in the north and Dry Gulch Road in the south. Highway 284 remains open. Residents of Upper Duck Creek Road, Upper Gurnett Creek Road, Upper Confederate Road, Ambush Drive, Battle Drive and from Upper Gurnett to White’s Gulch east and west of Highway 284 may return to their homes. All areas are currently in pre-evacuation. 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 and for Grassy Mountain residents.

Closures and Advisories

Areas around the fires are closed for public safety. Please respect the closure signs.

Temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) remain in place on all three fire areas. TFR violations can disrupt aerial firefighting operations and may force fire managers to ground essential aircraft. Wildfires are a no-fly zone for unauthorized aircraft, including drones. If you fly, we can’t. http://knowbeforeyoufly.org

Most of the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest is in Stage 2 fire restrictions. There are also closure areas for the Balsinger and Woods Creek fires. See: https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/hlcnf/alerts-notices

Stage 1 fire restrictions remain in place for the Custer Gallatin National Forest. There is also a closure area for the American Fork fire. See: https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/custergallatin/alerts-notices

The Bureau of Land Management Butte and Lewiston Field Offices issued an area closure for lands affected by the Woods Creek Fire. See: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/article/7649/63667/