Lodgepole Fire produces large amount of smoke in eastern Montana

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)

Lodgepole complex fires update


(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.

evacuation notice

The Western Montana Type 2 Incident Management Team will be assuming command of the fires.

Bridge Coulee Fire
Bridge Coulee Fire. Photo by Jonathan Moor July 21, 2017.
Bridge Coulee Fire
Bridge Coulee Fire. Photo by Jonathan Moor July 21, 2017.

Firefighter killed in Montana by falling tree

(UPDATED at 1:38 MDT July 20, 2017)

Trenton Johnson
Trenton Johnson

A firefighter working for a private company was killed July 19 while working on a wildfire in western Montana. Trenton Johnson 19, was struck by a falling tree while helping to suppress the Florence Fire, a small fire near Florence Lake on the Lolo National Forest northeast of Seeley Lake.

Mr. Johnson, a resident of Missoula, Montana was a member of a Grayback Forestry Inc. 20-person hand crew under contract to the U.S. Forest Service.

Kelli Matthews, a spokesperson for Grayback, said as the crew was getting lined out to begin work on a small fire the top broke out of a burning tree and struck Mr. Johnson. He was taken to the nearest heliport about half mile from the fire where he was airlifted to Saint Patrick Hospital. He was later declared deceased.

Mr. Johnson was a sophomore at Montana State University in Bozeman.

Lolo National Forest Supervisor Tim Garcia issued a statement Thursday saying in part:

This is a heart-wrenching loss of life and Trenton leaves behind many friends and family members who are feeling this profound loss right now. This loss is rippling across the Lolo National Forest this morning and is most keenly felt on the Seeley Lake Ranger District, where Trenton’s sister works as a Forest Service employee.

Between 1990 and 2014 18 firefighters were killed on wildland fires by hazardous trees, which was 4 percent of the 440 firefighter deaths in the stats for that period kept by the National Interagency Fire Center.

Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Johnson’s family, friends, and coworkers.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Chris and Paula.
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North Delphia Fire causes evacuations east of Roundup, Montana

Above: map showing the location of the North Delphia Fire east of Roundup, Montana. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 12:37 p.m. MDT July 14, 2017.

(UPDATED at 10 p.m. MDT July 14, 2017)

At about 9:50 p.m. on Friday the Musselshell County DES reported that there was a dozer line around the entire fire, which has burned about 3,700 acres. No homes were destroyed but five outbuildings were damaged.


(Originally published at 4:22 p.m. MDT July 14, 2017)

The North Delphia Fire is causing evacuations between Roundup and Musselshell Montana Friday afternoon. At about 3:30 p.m. Friday the Musselshell County DES estimated it had burned around 2,000 acres. As far as they knew at that time, no structures have been destroyed. It was reported about mid-morning on Friday off Buckhorn Land north of the North Delphia Subdivision.

It is north of Highway 12 and 13 miles northeast of Roundup.

Multiple aircraft are working the fire and crews are reporting progress. At about 4 p.m. the BLM reported that approximately 16,000 gallons of fire retardant had been pumped into air tankers heading to the fire.

The Red Cross is establishing a shelter at the Roundup Community Center for evacuees.

Smoke from the fire was showing up on radar but by 3:30 it was no longer visible on radar.

It is dry and breezy at Roundup this afternoon. At 3.55 p.m. a weather station near the town recorded 98 degrees, 13 percent relative humidity, and NNW winds at 10 mph gusting to 18.

The map below shows the track of what is probably an air attack ship orbiting over the fire.

North Delphia Fire Air attack
The map shows the track of an aircraft over the North Delphia Fire during the mid-afternoon July 14, 2017. It is a Rockwell International 690A, and is probably being used as an air attack ship.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Al.
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July Fire: Evacuations lifted for Landusky

Map July Fire
July Fire, July 8, 2017. The red line represents uncontrolled fire edge and the yellow dots are structures. This is a portion of the map that was developed by the Northern Rockies Incident Management Team. Click to enlarge.

(Originally published at 6 a.m. MDT July 8, 2017)

With the spread of the July Fire slowing and firefighters making progress to contain it, the residents of the evacuated town of Landusky, Montana will be able to return to their homes at 10 a.m. Saturday. However the road closure and evacuation will remain in effect for non-residents.

The Incident Management Team provided the following information Friday evening:

The success of the fire management in the Landusky area was largely facilitated by the efforts of the community in reducing fuels around their homes. Their efforts to make their properties more Firewise helped to both slow the fire and provide safer, more manageable working conditions for the firefighters.

We experienced moderate fire behavior as temperatures increased and the humidity dropped [Friday] afternoon. Additional heavy equipment arrived [Friday], including feller-bunchers and skidders, and is being used on the northwest side of the fire. Aerial resources, including three helicopters with water buckets, also assisted firefighters in holding and reinforcing firelines.

July fire causes evacuations west of Zortman, Montana

At 6 p.m. on Thursday the incident management team reported that the fire had burned 8,381 acres.

Above: Firefighters on the July Fire near Zortman, Montana

(Originally published at 12:28 p.m. MDT July 6, 2017)
(Updated at 12:50.m. MDT July 7, 2017)

Here is another updated map of the July Fire at Zortman, Montana current as of 3:30 a.m. MDT July 7, 2017. Click the map to see a larger version. We will post additional information when it becomes available.

map july wildfire zortman montana
The red, brown, and yellow dots on the map of the July Fire represent heat detected by a satellite. The red dots are the most recent, recorded at 3:30 a.m. MDT July 7, 2017. It is likely that light fuels that burned in some of the gray-colored areas did not retain heat long enough for the next satellite overflight, so red dots did not show up in some locations. Click to enlarge.


(Updated at 6:04 p.m. MDT July 6, 2017)

The July Fire in northern Montana west of Zortman was very active Thursday. A change in wind direction pushed the fire to the northwest in the general direction of the community of Landusky and the Little Rockies Christian Camp. A mandatory evacuation is in effect for Landusky; the camp is currently vacant and the caretaker has left. The fire is east and southeast of both locations.

The weather forecast for the fire area at 3,600 feet elevation predicts the wind out of the southeast will continue on Thursday, blowing at 9 mph gusting up to 15. The temperature will top out at 90 degrees with a minimum relative humidity of 20 percent. The actual conditions at Zortman at 3:30 p.m. were 86 degrees, 20 percent RH, and winds out of the east and southeast at 8 to 11, gusting to 18.

In the updated map below (click it to see a larger version) which shows data from 1:32 p.m. MDT on Thursday, the fire has moved further to the west and appears to be less than a mile away from Landusky.

map July Fire Zortman Montana
The red, brown, and yellow dots on the map of the July Fire represent heat detected by a satellite. The red dots are the most recent, recorded at 1:32 p.m. MDT July 6, 2017. It is likely that light fuels that burned in some of the gray-colored areas did not retain heat long enough for the next satellite overflight, so red dots did not show up in some locations. Click to enlarge.

At 6 p.m on Thursday it had burned 8,381 acres, which is about four times the last reported acreage.

A Type 2 incident management team assumed command of the fire at 6 a.m. Thursday.

July Fire, July 6, 2017
The July Fire, July 6, 2017. Inciweb photo.
Firefighters July Fire Zortman Montana
Firefighters on the July Fire. Inciweb photo.

The July Fire burns 1,000+ acres near Zortman, Montana

Above: Photo of the July Fire. Inciweb, July 3, 2017.  

(Originally published at 8:30 p.m. MDT July 4, 2017)
(Updated at 10:16 p.m. MDT July 4, 2017)

(At about 10 p.m. July 4 the BLM said the July fire had burned 1,669 acres and had 136 personnel assigned.)

One of the first significant wildfires in Montana this year is burning near the small town of Zortman off U.S. Highway 191 in the north-central part of the state 75 miles south of the Canadian border.

There is not a lot of timber in that part of the state but it is burning in the southern end of a 60,000-acre area of mixed timber on Bureau of Land Management lands.

3-D Map July Fire Montana
3-D map of the July Fire, as of 2:30 p.m. MDT July 4, 2017.

It is being battled by firefighters from BLM,
U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Phillips County Volunteers.

After it was discovered Monday afternoon it was attacked by 11 engines, 1 water tender, 4 air tankers (1 heavy and 3 SEATs), 3 helicopters, and 8 smokejumpers from West Yellowstone.

Our very unofficial estimate based on satellite data indicates that as of 2:30 p.m. MDT on Tuesday it had burned approximately 1,150 acres.

Zortman, with a population of 69 in the 2010 census, could be threatened by the fire west of town on Wednesday, with the forecast of Red Flag Warnings, 13 percent relative humidity, and northwest winds of 5 to 15 mph with gusts up to 25 mph.

In the video below, apparently the videographer missed the air tanker that is usually a few seconds behind the lead plane after they pop smoke.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Chris.
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