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Montana Wildfire Update For July 19, 2021

The National Interagency Fire Center reported 8 new fire starts in Montana Sunday that launched light initial attacks by federal, state and local firefighting resources. Two of the fires were out or contained by Sunday night.

The largest of the fires is the 51-acre Keller Welborn Fire burning in grass, sagebrush and timber north of Interstate 94 and along Keller Welborn Road in Yellowstone County.

The National Interagency Situation Reporting Program identifies 73% of the current wildfires in Montana as human-caused and 27% as lightning-caused.

Both the Northern Rockies and the national fire preparedness levels are at fire preparedness level 5, the highest level, because of active fire activity in the region.

The Alder Creek Fire burning about 7 miles west of the Wise River in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest will be threatening 146 primary structures along Highway 43 over the next 72 hours. That forecast comes from fire managers' projected activity posted to Inciweb Monday. The fire is burning about 5,600 acres and is 0% contained.

The Trail Creek Fire is burning along Highway 43, about 20 miles west of Wisdom. According to the incident update on Inciweb Monday, the fire is measured at 23,000 acres. Fire managers say efforts are focused on protecting Forest Service cabins and the National park Service's Big Hole Battlefield.

A Red Flag warning is in effect near the Alder Creek Fire and Trail Creek Fire until midnight with potential for thunderstorms and winds up to 50 miles per hour that could create critical fire danger and rapid fire growth.

A fire burning about a mile and a half northwest of the Lolo Pass Visitor in the Lolo National Forest is expected to impact Highway 12 at any time. According to the Granite Pass Complex incident update on InciWeb, four fires are burning in the vicinity of Lolo Pass and the Lolo Creek Fire is about a mile from Highway 12 and expected to cross the road and continue to move east to Wagon Mountain. Travelers along the highway are advised not to stop. An evacuation warning from the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office has been in place from the Idaho border to Lolo Hot Springs since July 10.

Structure preparation continues in the Belt Parkway area near the Balsinger Fire burning about 1,600 acres in the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest seven miles west of Neihart. Projected Incident Activity on Inciweb says based on the weather forecast, fire activity is anticipated to increase.

The American Fork Fire started over the weekend in the northeast Crazy Mountains and has grown to nearly 5,000 acres. The O’Hearn Creek Fire is also burning in the area, prompting closures. Trail closures on the Custer Gallatin National Forest include: Turkey Creek Forest Service Road #6334, and Lodgepole creek trail #266. Closures on the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest include: the Lebo Trail #640 and Big Elk Trailhead #640

Buffalo Fire

The 288-acre Buffalo Fire burning northeast of Billings in Yellowstone County is getting federal money for state firefighting costs.

Gov. Greg Gianforte announced Monday morning the state has secured a Fire Management Assistance Grant from FEMA, which makes federal money available to cover 75% of the state’s eligible firefighting costs.

Fire information officer Kate Wilson says the fire is 75% contained and the evacuation orders and road closures have been lifted.

The fire in grass, sage brush and small timber exploded Friday night by Huntley, near the Pryor Creek Golf Course and White Buffalo Trail Road.

Wilson says the fire is in patrol status with fire engines and a hand crew working to hold and strengthen the containment lines.

She says the cause of the fire is unknown, but there was thunderstorm activity in the area Friday night.

Air quality across Western Montana was unhealthy for sensitive groups and the state Department of Environmental Quality recommends active children and adults and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, limit prolonged outdoor exertion.

YPR News
Yellowstone Public Radio News