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Montana Wildfire Update For July 29, 2021

American Fork Pre-Evacuations

Strong winds have pushed the 9,500-acre American Fork Fire west, leading to pre-evacuation warnings for the Shields River and Smith Creek communities.

Fire Operations Section Chief Shawn Nagle says residents should consider evacuating even though it’s not mandatory.

“It’s pre-evac conditions right now; that’s the order. But if you do have the opportunity to evacuate and you are in that area it would help out down the road for the safety of all,” Nagle says.

The fire is 10% contained. Crews are also working on spot fires near the South Fork and American River, according to InciWeb.

Harris Mountain Fire

The 25,000-acre Harris Mountain Fire south of Cascade also continued to grow Wednesday.

During a town hall meeting, Phil Knaub with the U.S. Forest Service said the fire approached structures in the Adell area.

“We’re mopping up around those structures that had fire right up to them,” Knaub says.

No structures have been lost to the fire, says spokesperson Jacque Lavelle. No new evacuations have been ordered either, according to InciWeb.

Poverty Flats Fire

The Poverty Flats Fire is burning over more than 59,000 acres east of the Bighorn and Little Bighorn rivers in Big Horn County and the Crow Reservation.

It was 20% contained as of Thursday afternoon according to the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. That’s up from reports of 5% containment Wednesday.

A Type II incident management team, the second most robust type of interagency firefighting force, will be taking over management of the fire. The team received a briefing early Thursday morning according to InciWeb.

The Poverty Flats Fire started Tuesday afternoon about 10 miles north of Hardin. Brisk north winds pushed the fire more than 15 miles south in less than 24 hours, according to Bureau of Indian Affairs Crow Agency Fire Management.

InciWeb reports the fire jumped the Little Bighorn River Wednesday night, but firefighters stopped the subsequent small fires.

New Fires

The National Interagency Fire Center reports there were 5 new fire starts in Montana on Wednesday, prompting light initial attacks by federal, state and local firefighters. All 5 fires were under an acre in size and all but one were controlled by Wednesday night.

NIFC reported on Wednesday there are 35 uncontained large fires and 40 active fires in total covering more than 371,000 acres in the Northern Rockies including Montana, North Idaho, North Dakota and a small part of South Dakota and Wyoming.

The National Interagency Situation Reporting Programs identifies 72% of the current fires in Montana as human-caused. The rest are lightning-caused.

Montana Disaster and Emergency Services reports only 11 of the state’s 56 counties do NOT have a Stage I or Stage II fire restriction in effect.

Both the Northern Rockies and National fire preparedness levels are at 5, the highest level, because of widespread fire activity.

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