Helena - Lewis and Clark National Forest
U.S. Forest Service
2880 Skyway Drive
Helena, MT 59602
American Fork, Balsinger and Woods Creek Fires Update
Friday, August 20, 2021 – 10:00 a.m.
Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team
Dan Dallas, Incident Commander
Information phone: 406-426-9612
Information staffing hours: 8:00 am – 8:00 pm
Current Situation: Cool, wet weather dampened fire behavior yesterday. The weather also limited firefighters’ ability to access the fires with aerial support and heavy equipment, due to poor visibility and slick roads. Firefighters continue to make progress strengthening containment and contingency lines and are working to add containment on the Woods Creek and American Fork fires.
American Fork Fire
Acreage: 21,876 | Containment: 57% | Start date: July 17, 2021 | Cause: Lightning | Personnel: 130
The American Fork Fire is burning in the central part of the Crazy Mountains, approximately 24 miles southwest of Harlowton, Montana. Over two inches of rain have fallen on the fire in the past couple days. Yesterday, firefighters worked to build direct line in Division M, anchoring from the containment edge near Dugout Creek and working northeast toward Loco Mountain. Today, the plan is to continue direct attack in this area, working east toward Lodgepole Trailhead installing hand line and dozer line. On the east side of the fire, crews in Division A are working to contain the remaining line near the Middle Fork American Fork Creek. In Division P, they will continue constructing direct fire line from Buck Creek Road working east. Firefighters will also improve dozer line and hand line around private property. The UAS (firefighting drone) will continue to support operations today, as conditions allow.
Acreage: 8,614 | Containment: 77% | Start date: July 9, 2021 | Cause: Lightning | Personnel: 91
The Balsinger Fire is in the Little Belt Mountains, approximately five miles west of Neihart, Montana. Firefighters yesterday patrolled and mopped up along containment lines, addressing any hot spots. They will continue this work today in the eastern and southern parts of the fire, keeping it in the same footprint.
Woods Creek Fire
Acreage: 55,834 | Containment: 49% | Start date: July 10, 2021 | Cause: Lightning | Personnel: 466
The Woods Creek Fire is burning in the Big Belt Mountains, approximately 16 miles northeast of Townsend, Montana. The Midnight Suns hotshot crew from Alaska continues direct attack in Division AA, working south from the containment line along the North Fork of Elk Creek. Another crew is mopping up behind them, addressing any remaining hot spots. Two other hotshot crews, from New Mexico and Illinois, continue direct attack in Division YY, working east toward Division AA. In addition, an engine is supporting the hotshot crews who are installing hand line, check line, and using indirect attack along roads. On the east edge of the fire, crews continue to monitor, patrol and strengthen the containment edge. They are working to contain the remaining piece of line near Big Birch Creek. Firefighters identified some small spot fires in Division OO yesterday. These spots are not active and crews will work to contain them today. Suppression repair continues in this area, mitigating the effects of fire suppression activities on natural and cultural resources. As part of suppression repair work, crews will be masticating brush cleared for fireline construction. On the south side of the fire, crews will patrol, mop up, and reinforce the indirect fireline. In Divisions QQ and SS, firefighters continue to strengthen indirect line and masticate brush. At the division break between QQ and SS, crews will continue to mop up a ¼-acre spot fire.
Weather and Fuel Conditions: Today the forecast is continued cloudy, cool conditions with a 70% chance of rain. A dry period is expected this afternoon, with rain in the morning and evening. The high temperature today will be 52°F at 7500 feet elevation. Winds are from the northwest, with gusts 10-20 mph. Fire activity and spread are minimal with wet fuels and weather conditions. Logs and stumps may still hold some heat.
The interactive web map depicts evacuation areas. Please see https://bit.ly/WoodsCreekBalsingerAmericanForkFires or contact your local county sheriff’s office for details.
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: The Cascade County Sheriff’s Office has issued pre-evacuation orders for Belt Park, 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. Due to current and predicted weather and great progress made by firefighters on the Woods Creek Fire, some evacuation statuses have changed in Meagher County. Effective August 18, the Meagher County Sheriff’s Office has lifted the pre-evacuation for the area east of Camas Creek Road and north of North Fork Woods Gulch Creek to Luppold Road. On the east side of the fire, the area south of Burt Ranch Road and west of Camas Creek Road has been moved from mandatory to pre-evacuation status.
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/