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Montana Wildfire Update For July 14, 2021

Beaverhead County Evacuations

Eight homes were evacuated Wednesday near the wise river south of Highway 43 as the Alder Creek Fire burns with 0% containment in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.

Beaverhead County Sheriff Paul Craft tells Montana Public Radio the eight houses were evacuated on the south side of Highway 43 between Alder Creek turnoff and mile marker 62. Craft says more evacuations are likely Thursday.

The Trail Creek Fire is also burning in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, along the Montana-Idaho border. It grew more than 5,000 acres yesterday and is now measured at around 8,000 acres.

According to the incident command post on InciWeb, planned actions include protection of nearby forest service cabins and the National Park Service’s Big Hole Battlefield.

A public information meeting will be held at the Wisdom Community Center on Highway 43 this evening at 6 p.m. for an update on the Trail Creek and Alder Creek Fires.

New Fire Starts

The Northern Rockies Coordination Center reports that 30 new fires starts in Montana on Tuesday launched moderate initial attacks by federal, state and local firefighting resources. 

Seventy-three percent of these new starts are less than an acre in size and more than half were contained, controlled or out by the end of Tuesday. 

The largest of the fires is the Reed Creek 2 Fire, a 238-acre fire burning in timber and grass about 5 miles south of Interstate 94 near the Waco exit in Yellowstone and Big Horn counties. The Billings Interagency Dispatch Center identifies the cause as a lightning strike. 

Twenty-one percent of current wildfires in Montana are caused by lightning strikes.

The Reed Creek 2 fire is not contained.

The Northern Rockies is currently at fire preparedness level 5, the highest level, because of the high fire activity in the region and the significant commitment of firefighting resources. The national fire preparedness level is 4.

MY Complex Fire

A fire information officer reports the Peterson Fire 12 miles south of Melstone in Musselshell County is 26% contained as of Wednesday morning. The spokesperson says firefighters continue to secure more containment lines around the 4,400-acre fire.

The Peterson Fire is one of three fires included in the MY Complex Fire burning in Musselshell and Yellowstone counties.

The 900-acre Western Road Fire, 7 miles southeast of Roundup, is 79% contained. The 22,000-acre Musselshell Trail Road Fire, 15 miles northwest of Custer in Yellowstone County, is 100%. Firefighters are patrolling the containment lines on both fires but will be available to respond to any new fire starts in the MY Complex area.

Fire retardant on east side of Peterson Fire on July 13, 2021.
Credit InciWeb
Fire retardant on east side of Peterson Fire on July 13, 2021.

Robertson Draw and Crooked Creek Fires

The Robertson Draw Fire 7 miles south of Red Lodge in the Custer Gallatin National Forest in south central Montana is 85% contained as of Wednesday morning.

Incident Commander Dan Bartel says in the morning report all but the northwest corner of the 30,000-acre fire is now secured.

Rehabilitation continues in the containment lines to repair or replace fences and try to return the land to original condition. Firefighters will continue to patrol and mop up pockets of heat along with north and west ends of the fire.

Wednesday’s forecast is for cooler temperatures and relatively high humidity, but there’s no chance of wetting rain and winds could gusts up to 20 miles an hour at night. The weather is expected to be hotter and dryer towards the weekend. 

The 4,100-acre Crooked Creek Fire east of Bridger in the Pryor Mountains is also 85% contained. Fire crews continue to hold and improve containment lines.

Fire Emergency Order

Governor Greg Gianforte issued an executive order Wednesday, effective immediately, declaring a statewide wildland fire emergency in Montana.

The governor issued Executive Order 12-2021 in response to the extremely dry and dangerous wildfire conditions that exist across the state and to the national shortage of firefighting resources. The order allows the governor to summon the Montana National Guard to work alongside local and volunteer firefighters and to activate the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which allows states to share resources during times of emergency or disaster.

“Montana faces critical fire conditions that pose significant threats to our communities, infrastructure, first responders, and way of life,” Gianforte said in a press release Wednesday. “As our firefighters battle active fires across the state with more to come, this executive order helps ensure they have the suppression resources, supplies, and fuel they need to safely and aggressively respond.”

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Explore what wildfire means for the West, our planet and our way of life, with Fireline, a six-part series from Montana Public Radio and the University Of Montana College of Business.
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