Above: The Lodgepole Complex of fires. Uncredited photo posted to Inciweb July 23, 2017.
(Originally published at 9:20 a.m. MDT July 26, 2017)
Firefighters continue to make progress on the Lodgepole Complex of fires in Eastern Montana south of Lake Fort Peck. More accurate mapping shows that the fire has burned a total of 270,000 acres on the four fires, Bridge Coulee, Barker, South Breaks, and Square Butte.
Early Wednesday morning the only large concentrations of intense heat detected by an aircraft were on the north side adjacent to Lake Fort Peck, but a lot of the fire perimeter still does not have completed fireline.
Firefighters have been conducting burnout operations to secure the lines and in some locations have increased the depth along the containment lines by one quarter mile.
The weather on Wednesday is predicted to be warmer and drier with gusty winds out of the south.
Above: Wildfires in Western Montana, July 25, 2017.
(Originally published at 10:30 a.m. MDT July 25, 2017)
Residents of Missoula, Montana are used to the impacts wildfire season brings to the area. Occasionally the area is inundated with smoke for days or weeks at a time. Today at least a dozen large wildfires are burning within 70 miles of Missoula. Most of them are south or east of the city so the northwest wind predicted today will blow much of the smoke from the fires away from town.
The national Incident Management Situation Report groups fires by Geographic Area and lists those Areas by priority, and within each Area the fires are listed by priority. The Northern Rockies Geographic Area, identified as the highest priority today, is comprised of Northern Idaho, all of Montana, most of North Dakota, and relatively small portions of Wyoming and South Dakota.
Today’s report lists 21 large fires in the Northern Rockies with 18 of them being in Montana. The first 10 priorities are in Montana and 8 of them are in the western part of the state.
The two that are in the eastern part are the top two priorities in the Area:
Lodgepole Complex of Fires: 250,000 acres, 16 homes have been destroyed. Firefighters are making good progress. Over the last 48 hours the only large growth has been on the northern end near Lake Fort Peck. More information.
Buffalo Fire: This is a new fire reported July 24. At last report it had burned 2,000 acres and is near the Wyoming/Montana state line. An Incident Management Team from Alaska that was staged in the state has been assigned.
Below is some information about a couple of fires closer to Missoula:
Lolo Peak Fire; 1,090 acres 17 miles southwest of Missoula and 10 miles southwest of Lolo. It was active Monday and Monday night on the north, west, and south sides, spotting across a drainage and advancing to Lantern Ridge.
Sapphire Complex comprised of Sliderock, Little Hogback, and Goat Creek fires: 20 to 31 miles southeast of Missoula. All three fires were active Monday, primarily on the east and southeast sides. Combined they have burned 4,539 acres.
An executive order signed by the Governor of Montana Sunday will enable the state to mobilize National Guard helicopters (Blackhawks and CH47), some firefighters, and kitchens. It also makes it possible for local governments to access the Governor’s emergency fund if they have enacted their own 2 mil levy.
Above: Satellite photo of the Lodgepole Complex of fires, July 23, 2017. The red dots represent heat detected by the satellite.
(Updated at 11:50 p.m. MDT July 24, 2017)
The Lodgepole Complex of fires in eastern Montana was active Monday on the north and east sides. The incident management team (IMT) reported Monday at 6 p.m. MDT that the estimated size is a quarter of a million acres — 250,000 acres.
There are 611 personnel assigned to the fire.
The IMT also reported that 16 homes have been destroyed as well as a significant amount of fencing and hay.
The executive order signed by the Governor of Montana Sunday will enable the state to mobilize National Guard helicopters (Blackhawks and CH47), some firefighters, and kitchens. It also makes it possible for local governments to access the Governor’s emergency fund if they have enacted their own 2 mil levy.
Monday night there is a chance of dry thunderstorms — lightning with little to no rain but with plenty of wind. Tuesday should be cooler with northeast winds at 10 mph.
(Originally published at 10:23 a.m. MDT July 24, 2017)
(Updated at 1:20 p.m. MDT July 24, 2017)
A wildfire in eastern Montana grew to over 220,000 acres Sunday in a remote area miles from communities people from out of the state have ever heard of. The group of four fires are referred to as the Lodgepole Complex of fires and cover an area 40 miles by 20 miles. The incident management team Monday morning is calling the four fires 226,000 acres, a classification that we call “megafires” (that exceed 100,000 acres). The nearest community in the area that we could find on a map was Mosby on Highway 200, about three miles west of the fire. Mosby’s post office closed in 2015. The County Seat, Jordon, with a population of 343 in 2010, is about 30 air miles to the east.
The map of the Lodgepole Complex below shows the perimeter as mapped by an aircraft at 9 p.m. MDT July 23. Later that night the fire continued to spread north along the shore of Lake Fort Peck up to the main body of the lake where it makes a 180-degree turn. Our very unofficial estimate puts the size at close to a quarter of a million acres.
The north end of the fire has burned into the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge near Lake Fort Peck.
On Sunday evening Montana Governor Steve Bullock signed an Executive Order “declaring a fire emergency to exist in the state”. The Governor said the order will provide additional firefighting resources.
On Sunday firefighters were able to stop the spread on the south end of the fire and continued to patrol the area which had little fire activity south of Highway 200. Other efforts on Sunday were on the northern portions of the fires protecting property and grazing areas after a wind shift from the south. Both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters have been heavily used on the fires.
Evacuation orders are in effect for portions of Garfield and Petroleum Counties.
The four fires began on July 19, 2017 after a lightning storm.
The National Situation Report said resources on the fire Sunday evening included 4 hand crews, 12 engines, and 3 helicopters for a total of 215 personnel. Monday morning the incident management team reported the number of personnel had increased to 300. These would be very low numbers for a fire much smaller than the Lodgepole Complex of fires.
The weather forecast for Mosby, MT on Monday features another Red Flag Warning with temperatures in the mid 80s to mid 90s and humidity levels around 20 percent with 10 to 20 mph north winds gusting at 22 to 28.
This wind out of the north may again, as in recent days, push smoke into neighboring states.
The fire is being managed by the Western Montana Type 2 Interagency Incident Management Team, Rick Connell Incident Commander.
Above: Smoke produced by the Lodgepole Complex of fires in Eastern Montana, July 21, 2017. Click here to see a 5-second animation of the movement of the smoke.
(UPDATED at 5:12 p.m. MDT July 22, 2017)
(Originally published at 8:58 a.m. MDT July 22, 2017)
The Lodgepole Complex of wildfires in Eastern Montana produced copious quantities of smoke Friday that when mixed with smoke from fires farther west put a haze over areas in Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and North Dakota.
The Complex is comprised of four fires in Eastern Montana, according to Inciweb:
The Bridge Coulee Fire was discovered Wednesday afternoon, 16 miles north of Mosby, Mont. The fire is estimated at 50,000 acres as of Friday afternoon. This fire has crossed the Musselshell River into Petroleum County.
The Barker Fire, 20 miles north of Sand Springs, Mont. is estimated at 12,000 acres as of Friday afternoon.
The South Breaks Fire is estimated at 7,000 acres 27 miles northeast of Mosby, Mont.
The Square Butte Fire 19 miles north of Sand Springs, Mont., is 808 acres.
Combined, the fires have burned almost 70,000 acres.
Evacuations are taking place.
The Western Montana Type 2 Incident Management Team will be assuming command of the fires.