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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.