Rainfall in western states slows wildfire season in many areas

Rainfall last 2 weeks washington oregon
Rainfall last 2 weeks, Washington and Oregon

Rainfall over the last two weeks has slowed or in some cases, ended the wildfire season in some areas.

On October 19 we ran the numbers for the accumulated precipitation for the last 14 days in the western states. These maps show amounts that exceeded 0.05 inches at some of the Interagency Remote Automatic Weather Stations (RAWS).

Washington, Oregon, and northern California have received a good soaking and I would imagine that local fire officials may be declaring an end to the fire season. Of course this is not unusual for these areas this time of the year, and some locations had already seen their season end. But what IS unusual, is the high amount of moisture that occurred in just two weeks.

You can click on the images to see larger versions.

Rainfall last 2 weeks, northern California
Rainfall last 2 weeks, northern California
Rainfall last 2 weeks central California
Rainfall last 2 weeks, central California

Continue to see maps for the other western states.
Continue reading “Rainfall in western states slows wildfire season in many areas”

Pile burning on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF

Over the last week Derek Wittenberg has been working with his colleagues on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in western Montana (map) burning piles that were created while building a fuel break on the Pole Fire. Other piles were part of a project to promote a Whitebark Pine stand that is resistant to Blister Rust.

He posted photos and videos on his Instagram page that are used here with his permission.

Piles like these are often burned while there is snow on the ground in order to minimize the chance of the fires spreading out of control. Some of the keys to success are constructing the piles so that some material remains relatively dry even after rain or snow, and using firefighters that are skilled with a drip torch.

The crew took advantage of the opportunity to conduct training with a Very Pistol.

Veri pistol training and pile burning

A photo posted by Derek Wittenberg (@ridebigmtn) on


A video posted by Derek Wittenberg (@ridebigmtn) on

Continue reading “Pile burning on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF”

South entrance to Yellowstone opens after being closed by the Berry Fire

The Maple Fire in Yellowstone spreads closer to West Yellowstone and Hwy. 191

The video above was uploaded Monday August 29 the day before Highway 89 opened.

The south entrance to Yellowstone National Park opened Tuesday morning after having been closed for the last week after the Berry Fire burned across U.S. Highway 89 at the north end of Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park.

The fire was active Monday on the northeast, south, and west sides and has burned about 13,200 acres. A large smoke column actually assisted firefighters working on the east side of the highway Monday by shading the fire on that side of the lake, slowing the spread.

Fires Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks
Fires in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, August 30, 2016. The green lines are the boundaries of the two parks. The white line is the Wyoming/Montana boundary.

A new fire in Yellowstone National Park is named the Central Fire, probably because it is in the center of the park. It is 9 miles west of the Lake developed area and 2 miles south of Hayden Valley. The fire is just northwest of the 2015 Spruce fire which is expected to block the fire’s growth to the east. Currently it is burning in mature lodgepole pine.

The Maple Fire has spread considerably over the last several days and is within about 2 miles of Highway 191 north of West Yellowstone, Montana, and about 3.5 miles from the community. It has crossed from Wyoming into Montana and on the south side is burning along the Madison River very close to the West Entrance Road (Highway 20). It has reached the east side of the Boundary Fire that spread on its west side to within a quarter mile of Highway 191.

The staff at Yellowstone wants visitors to know that all entrances and roads within the park are open. Visitor facilities and businesses in the park and surrounding communities are not impacted by the fires and remain open.

The Buffalo Fire is in the north-central part of Yellowstone about 2 miles north of the Northeast Entrance Road (Highway 212). The fire has burned about 4,000 acres, a few of which may be just across the state line in Montana.

Above: the Maple Fire burns along the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park August 29, 2016. Video by Jeremy Weber of the West Yellowstone News.

Firefighters and first responders on Roaring Lion Fire thank the community

Often on a wildfire we see members of the community displaying signs thanking the firefighters. It is less common to see an organized effort that goes in the other direction — firefighters thanking the community.

On the Roaring Lion Fire southwest of Hamilton, Montana five people representing the first responders and firefighters appeared in a video expressing their appreciation for the support they received from the community.

In the video you’ll see:

  • Hamilton Fire Chief Brad Mohn
  • Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman
  • Northern Rockies Incident Management Team Incident Commander Greg Poncin
  • Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor Julie King
  • USFS District Ranger Eric Winthers

Maybe this will start a trend.

The spread of the Roaring Lion Fire slows

(UPDATED at 5:32 p.m. MDT August 4, 2016)

This time-lapse video shows the start of the Roaring Lion Fire and how quickly it grew to become a massive fire in about three hours. It was recorded by Jeff Kempka.

Roaring Lion fire map
The Roaring Lion Fire, outlined in red, is burning in an area where many other fires have occurred in the last 30 years.

The Roaring Lion fire southwest of Hamilton, Montana did not spread as much Wednesday as on previous days. The latest mapping shows it at 7,752 acres, an increase of 622 acres, with most of that growth being on the south side.

Below is an excerpt from a release by the incident management team Thursday morning:

In the Sawtooth drainage crews are constructing hand line to reduce the possibility of fire spread to the north. From Roaring Lion Road to the Whispering Pine area, crews continue to mop up and extinguish any hot spots. Hotshot crews are working close to the fire’s edge and building hand line above Camas Creek toward Gold Creek. From Camas Creek to Hayes Creek line is being constructed toward the Observation fire area.

Heavy equipment continues to improve contingency lines should the fire continue to spread to the south. Rapid Response teams comprised of engines, dozers and water tenders are staged for initial attack on any new fire starts in residential areas. Air support continues to work hot spots and hot areas of the fire. Firefighters are working around the clock to take advantage of cooler temperatures and higher humidity today.


(UPDATED at 8:50 a.m. MDT August 3, 2016)

The Roaring Lion Fire four miles southwest of Hamilton, Montana was very active Tuesday night under the influence of strong winds from the north and northwest. Sustained at 30 to 40 mph with gusts to 50, the wind pushed the fire another mile and a half to the south into the Ward Creek drainage. The fire also grew on the north side. The winds were strongest from 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday until midnight.

Resources assigned to the fire include 9 helicopters and 524 personnel. Single engine and large air tankers are available as needed, but their use was hampered Tuesday by smoke.

3-D Map Roaring Lion Fire
3-D Map of the Roaring Lion Fire looking west. The white line was the perimeter at 7 p.m. on August 1. The red line was the perimeter at 2 a.m. on August 3, while the red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 4:06 am August 3, 2016. Click to enlarge.

The number of homes burned remains at 14. Approximately 50 outbuildings have been destroyed.

About 800 homes are under evacuation orders to either be ready to leave immediately, or to leave now.

One elderly gentleman died as a result of a medical condition during the evacuation.

Over the last 24 hours the fire grew by 2,700 acres to bring the total to 7,130 acres.

US Highway 93 was closed for five hours on Tuesday when smoke reduced the visibility.

Below is a report from KTMF/KWYB just after the Wednesday morning briefing.

The weather forecast for Wednesday predicts much cooler temperatures and higher humidity — 76 degrees and 24 percent (compared to 90 degrees and 17 percent on Tuesday). But the wind will be strong out of the west, at 16 mph gusting to 23.


(UPDATED at 6:25 p.m. MDT August 2, 2016)

Map Roaring Lion Fire
3-D map of the Roaring Lion Fire looking west at 2:30 a.m. MDT August 2, 2016. The terrain goes from 3,600 feet to over 8,000 feet in elevation.

The strongest winds we wrote about earlier are expected to be at their peak from about 6 p.m. until midnight tonight, gusting at 32 to 38 mph from the northwest.


(Originally published at 7:45 a.m. MDT August 2, 2016)

The Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that the Roaring Lion Fire has destroyed at least 14 homes in the Bitterroot National Forest four air miles southwest of Hamilton, Montana. Since starting Sunday afternoon the blaze had burned approximately 4,400 acres as of 7 p.m. on Monday, growing by about 900 acres over the previous 24 hours. The additional fire spread was primarily on the west and northwest sides.

Roaring Lion Fire map
The red line was the perimeter of the Roaring Lion Fire at 7 p.m. MDT August 1. The red squares represent heat detected by a satellite about 8 hours later at 2:45 a.m. MDT August 2, 2016. Click to enlarge.

The weather on Monday was relatively mild, with temperatures reaching the high 80s and winds of 1 to 7 mph. That will change Tuesday afternoon with a Red Flag Warning affecting the area. The forecast is for 16 to 22 mph west and northwest winds gusting up to 31 mph along with relative humidities in the lower teens. This will test any control lines firefighters have established on the east side of the fire — the area with the highest concentration of structures.

map Roaring Lion Fire
Map of the Roaring Lion Fire at 3:07 a.m. August 1, 2016.

Type 1 and 2 teams ordered to respond to western Montana wildfires

Above: Map of the Roaring Lion Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 3:07 a.m. MDT August 1. The red squares represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:31 p.m. MDT August 1, 2016, showing expansion of the fire to the northwest.

Click HERE to see the most current information on Wildfire Today about the Roaring Lion Fire.

(Update 5:52 p.m. MDT, August 1, 2016)

The Roaring Lion fire in the Bitterroot National Forest outside of Hamilton, Montana has destroyed several structures, although officials have yet to confirm how many, according to posts on InciWeb.

Five hundred homes remain under evacuation notice, and on Monday the fire had burned more than 3,000 acres.

Crews made some gains establishing a fireline on Sunday night, and were aided by 5 helicopters on Monday, according to InciWeb:

Last night, dozer and hand crews were able to punch in containment lines in a good portion of the East side of the fire. They were also able to put out multiple spot fires around residences.

The Type 1 team is expected to take over operations on Tuesday.  The cause of the fire remains unknown.

map Roaring Lion Fire
Map of the Roaring Lion Fire at 3:07 a.m. MDT August 1, 2016. Click to enlarge.

Fanned by hot winds, the Roaring fire exploded in a massive plume of smoke on Sunday. Visit InciWeb to see more photos of the fire. Also, check out this time-lapse video of the fire (note: it will take about 20 seconds for images of the fire to start).

Roaring Lion fire, July 31, 2016
Roaring Lion fire, July 31, 2016

Meanwhile, the Copper King fire in the Lolo National Forest continues to burn, although it has not prompted any evacuations. On Sunday, the fire shut down Montana Highway 200, which officials reopened on Monday.


Two wildfires ignited in western Montana on Sunday, prompting evacuations and the shutdown of a U.S. highway.

A Type I incident management team has been ordered to respond to the Roaring Lion fire, which as of Sunday evening had already burned 2,000 acres outside of Hamilton.

A Type II team will be responding to the Copper King fire near Thompson Falls.

Here are some overview details for both fires:

Roaring Lion, Bitterroot National Forest:

  • Residents in 500 homes evacuated, or warned that they should be prepared to evacuate.
  • 3 Hot Shot crews; a hand crew from the Bitterroot National Forest
  • 5 helicopters, one airtanker
  • US Highway 93 has been closed
  • All personnel planning to work through the night to establish containment lines once the wind dies down.
  • Strong winds in the area.

Copper King, Lolo National Forest:

  • 2 helicopters, one Single Engine Air Tanker and on Air Attack fixed-wing aircraft.
  • No structures threatened, and no evacuations, but the fire is very visible from Montana Highway 200.
  • As of Sunday night, the fire had burned 200 acres.
  • Strong gusty winds in the area.

Much of western Montana (including the two counties where the fires are, Sanders and Ravalli) has been abnormally dry or experiencing a moderate drought for the month of July, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

U.S. Drought Monitor, Montana