Montana: West Mullan Fire

(UPDATE at 8:40 a.m. MDT, July 20, 2013)

Map of West Mullan Fire,
3-D Map of West Mullan Fire, looking northeast, at 11 p.m. MDT, July 29, 2013 (click to enlarge)

The West Mullan fire was active on the east and west sides Friday. See below for more details.


(UPDATE at 8:55 p.m. MDT, July 19, 2013)

The Incident Management Team announced this afternoon that effective immediately, the mandatory evacuation order and road closure in and around Superior, MT are being changed. West Mullan Road is open to the public east of Sunflower Lane. West of Sunflower Lane it is open to residents only. Flat Creek Road within the city limits is open. East Mullan Road is open to everyone. Flat Creek Road outside the city limit remains closed and under mandatory evacuation. Pardee Creek, Keystone Creek, and LaVista Roads remain closed and under mandatory evacuation. Big Eddy Fishing Access is closed.


(UPDATE at 10:41 a.m. MDT, July 19, 2013)

Staging area at West Mullan Fire
Staging area at West Mullan Fire, July 15, 2013. InciWeb photo

The latest size estimate of the West Mullan Fire is 4,550 acres with 23 percent containment. They provided this update Thursday night:

Firefighters were able to make significant progress today limiting further expansion of the fire. Crews cleaned-up the fire’s edge on the southeast flank and expanded the line on the western perimeter. The fire was allowed to burn down toward Flat Creek Road and Superior where preparations were in place to stop further spread. Engines and hoses were present around buildings to provide structure protection.

Dozer and hand line was constructed on the western edge coming upslope from the Dry Creek area. Crews worked along Keystone Road in preparation for advance of the fire downslope from the ridge. Progress on the northern edge was limited because of firefighter safety concerns.

A road block is in place on the bridge in Superior crossing the Clark Fork River restricting access to the north. Pardee Road, East Pardee Road, West Mullan Road, Flat Creek Road, East Mullan Road to Big Eddy Fishing Access site, LaVista Road, and Keystone Road are under mandatory evacuation. An emergency center has been established at the Superior Elementary School by the Red Cross.

On Friday firefighters will continue to protect structures, and will remove hazardous trees and vegetation along Keystone Creek Road to prepare for a possible burnout operation. Crews will also be working along the ridge between Keystone and Pardee Creeks constructing fireline. Dozers and hand crews will work along the northwest section of the fire constructing line. Crews will finish preparing line for any required burnout operations in Wood Gulch.

A larger version of the map below can be found on InciWeb.

Map of West Mullan Fire, July 18, 2013
Map of West Mullan Fire, July 18, 2013


(UPDATE at 3:32 p.m. MDT, July 18, 2013)

The video below has some interesting imagery shot on the West Mullan Fire on July 16.
Continue reading “Montana: West Mullan Fire”

Montana: man arrested for arson has fire department history

The man arrested Thursday for starting multiple fires in the Helena, Montana area was briefly a member of the East Valley Volunteer Fire Department, according to an article in the Helena Independent Record.

Frederick James May, 18, was charged with 12 counts of arson in connection with fires near York on Wednesday and in the Priest Pass area May 10. Five of those fires are being managed as the Sweats Complex, with the total number of acres burned listed at 450 with 225 personnel assigned.

Below are some excerpts from the Helana IR:

East Valley Volunteer Fire Chief Dave Sammons confirmed Thursday that Maw had served with that department for “about three or four months” last year before turning in his gear and preparing to join the military.

He had a relatively low level of participation in the department activities, Sammons said.

When Maw applied this winter to rejoin the department, he was refused, Sammons said, based on a review of his earlier performance.


Frederick James Maw, 18, was spotted on the scene of the fires outside York on Nelson Road, as well as in the Spokane Hills in Broadwater County on Tuesday, in full firefighting gear but apparently not affiliated with any of the fire crews.According to early reports, he claimed he was a contract firefighter.


He eventually admitted starting all three sets of recent fires, according to the report — nine in the York area, three on Priest Pass on May 10 and two in the Spokane Hills on Tuesday.Each arson count carries a possible penalty of 20 years in a prison and a fine of up to $50,000.

His arrest at about 5:50 p.m. Thursday capped a day in which fire crews scrambled to contain five fires suspiciously located on either side of Nelson Road. Deputies blocked the exit from the area in York to question travelers.

Rain on Thursday and higher humidity slowed the five fires in the Sweats Complex considerably. Their current status of as of 10 a.m. May 17:

  • Hunters Gulch at 150 acres and the fire is 75% contained
  • Sweats Gulch at about 300 acres and 25% contained
  • Pipepline Fire at 1 acre; contained, controlled and in patrol status
  • Kelly Gulch fires are a total of 5 acres and about 90% contained
  • Cottontail Fire at 2 acres is contained, controlled and in patrol status

Man arrested for starting fires near Helena, MT

A man has been arrested, suspected of starting multiple fires in the Helena, Montana area. Authorities are investigating Fredrick Maw of Helena and his possible role in starting five fires Wednesday, a 55-acre fire on Tuesday near the McMaster ranch, and another last week near Priest Pass.

The Helena Independent Record reported Mr. Maw “allegedly had been seen at the various fires as a private contractor seeking employment”.

The five fires that started Wednesday about 25 miles northeast of Helena are in the Helena National Forest and are being managed as the Sweats Complex. As of Thursday morning:

  1. Hunter Gulch Fire is more than 100 acres in size and is actively burning in grass and open timber, with 40% containment;
  2. Sweats Gulch Fire is about 300 acres with active fire behavior including isolated torching and crowning;
  3. [Unnamed] Fire approximately one acre, is contained and controlled;
  4. Kelly Gulch Fire is a group of five small fires that together are about 5 acres with a fireline around all of the fires;
  5. Cottontail Fire is about one acre and is contained.


Thanks go out to Al.

Montana: fire near Philipsburg burns homes

Ramsey Gulch fire
Ramsey Gulch Fire, Photo by Larry Craig

Strong winds on Monday pushed a fire through 350 acres of forest land four miles southeast of Philipsburg, Montana Monday. During the night the winds calmed down, but officials report that five homes and numerous outbuildings burned in the fire that was reported at 6:30 p.m. MT Monday.

Philipsburg is about 80 miles southeast of Missoula.

Residents have been allowed to return to their homes, according to an update on InciWeb, where the fire behavior is described as “creeping with occasional group torching and small runs”, which is very different from the conditions when these two photos were taken.

Management of the fire is transitioning to a Type 3 Incident Management Team under the direction of Incident Commander Jonathan Clark.

Ramsey Gulch fire
Ramsey Gulch fire as seen from Philipsburg 5-13-2013. Screen capture from a video by skarphace


Thanks go out to Chris.

Trial begins for man accused of starting Bear Trap 2 Fire

Bear Trap 2 Fire
Bear Trap 2 Fire. Inciweb photo by Ken Harris.

A trial began on Monday in Virginia City, Montana for a man facing multiple felony counts for allegedly starting the Bear Trap 2 Fire west of Bozeman, Montana in June, 2012. Kyler Schmitz is accused of starting the fire when fireworks he was using ignited vegetation, ultimately burning 15,341 acres of private, Bureau of Land Management, and State owned land. The fire cost more than $1.2 million to suppress.

Red Flag Warnings, April 29, 2013

Red Flag Warnings

Red Flag Warnings for enhanced wildfire danger have been issued by the National Weather Service for areas in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Montana.


The Red Flag Warning map above was current as of 9:45 a.m. MT on Monday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts. For the most current data, visit this NWS site.