Time lapse video of Dugan Fire in Montana

I like time lapse videos of wildfires. This one of the Dugan Fire near Ekalaka in southeast Montana (map) not only shows the fire itself, but also includes some dozers working at what appears to be 500 miles an hour. It begins with some still images — the time lapse starts at 0:37.

The Dugan Fire burned 10,675 acres and is contained, according to InciWeb. Below is another photo of the fire.

Dugan Fire
Dugan Fire, InciWeb photo

Montana is grateful for borrowed Canadian aircraft

Highway 87 Fire
In August retardant dropped by air tankers helped slow the spread of the Highway 87 Fire in Montana. Montana DNRC photo.

Several firefighting aircraft from Canada have been in Montana this summer, on loan thanks to an international agreement. The provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta sent three CV-580 air tankers, two lead planes, and one Bell 212 helicopter under the provisions of an arrangement between five U.S. states and five Canadian provinces titled the “Northwest Wildland Fire Protection Agreement”, which allows ground and air firefighting resources to be exchanged between the two countries. The aircraft have been stationed at Helena and Billings since June.

Here is an excerpt from an article in the Billings Gazette about the agreement and the aircraft:

With the Canadian tankers and helicopter available, fire crews can throw more resources — and do it faster — than usual at new starts in an effort to nip them before they can blow up. For example, the Hibbard fire sparked on Sunday north of Pompeys Pillar and, within hours, three heavy tankers and a helicopter were helping local crews, dousing the fire after it burned 326 acres.

“We want to get in there and dogpile the fires as soon as we hear about them,” [Matt] Wolcott [the Montana DNRC Southern Land Office’s area manager] said.

And its not just the Billings area benefiting from the Northwest Compact. They’ve helped out everywhere from Yellowstone National Park to the Hi-line, from the Crow Indian Reservation to the Missouri Breaks.

Last year, Montana also sent crews to help fight fires in Alaska and an overhead crew, engines and other resources to British Columbia during the 2010 fire season.

While the U.S. has sent ground-based firefighters to Canada on several occasions, I can’t recall any long-term deployment of government-owned air tankers from the U.S. to Canada. Oh, right… that’s because we don’t have have any.


Thanks go out to Dick and Kelly.

Count the spot fires

Albert Fire
Albert Fire, MDNRC photo

The photo above was taken Sunday by state employees from a Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation helicopter during the initial attack of the Albert fire west of Missoula on the south side of the Clark Fork River.

It is a very interesting photo, in that you can see what appear to be multiple spot fires. How many can you count?

The spread of the fire was halted at 75 acres Sunday night, but firefighters still have a lot of work to do on the fire. They credit their success to a quick and aggressive initial attack with single engine air tankers, helicopters, and ground resources who could take advantage of the aerial attack.

Here is one other photo also taken from the helicopter:

Albert Fire
Albert Fire, MDNRC photo

Thanks go out to Chris

Monday morning one-liners

Fire near Pompeys Pillar, MT, BAe-146
A BAe-146 air tanker drops on a fire near Pompeys Pillar, MT, Sept. 2, 2012. Photo by Lisa Openshaw, Shepherd Volunteer Fire Department

On Sunday firefighters stopped a fire after it burned 326 acres north of Pompeys Pillar in Montana (see photo above).

The National Interagency Fire Center moved the national preparedness level from four to three.

Elizabeth Reinhardt of the USFS and Dick Bahr of the NPS are quoted in an article about how larger and more frequent fires over the last several decades have limited the size of some fires, as they move into the previously burned areas.

Wildfire south of Porto, Portugal, September 2, 2012
Wildfire south of Porto, Portugal, September 2, 2012

Hot, dry, and windy weather led to several large wildfires in Portugal on Sunday.


Thanks go out to Kelly

Idaho fire invades western Montana

Fire managers have set up a new camp in the West Fork of the Bitterroot to engage the Montana portion of an enormous Idaho wildfire that has burned over into Montana.

A roll-over vehicle accident occurred in the Sage Creek area this afternoon; one person was transported and admitted to a local hospital.

The complex is just 16 percent contained tonight at well over 205,000 acres [map]. A couple hundred firefighters will be assigned to the new fire camp.

Mustang Fire along the Salmon River
Mustang Fire along the Salmon River – USFS photo

Brian Harris, a fire information officer on the Mustang Complex, said the fire’s burned to within a couple of miles of the Hughes Creek area of the West Fork of the Bitterroot.

“This fire is so large and so massive and the weather has been so uncooperative that firefighters have only been able to put speed bumps in front of the fire in an attempt to slow it down,” Harris said.

He said crews are installing sprinklers and removing fuels in some areas. USFS Darby District Ranger Chuck Oliver said there’s some concern about the proximity of the fire to the Lost Trail Ski Area – not far from a contentious area of late with locals because of the ski cabin built and run by locals who have recently been unjustly stiffed by the USFS.

Late Thursday afternoon, the fire was about 12 air miles away from the ski area.

“We don’t want to give people any indication that the fire is imminent,” Oliver said. “We are just beginning to talk about the what-ifs so we can start preparing contingency plans should the fire move this way.”

The fire took off and made a 30,000-acre run on Tuesday. Air quality conditions in the Missoula and Bitterroot valleys had deteriorated by Thursday afternoon, according to the Billings Gazette, from smoke pouring in from Idaho.

Montana fires ripping under red flag conditions

Firefighters struggled yesterday in fighting Montana wildfires that have burned homes and caused injuries. One new fire was reported south of Ashland, and two others erupted in Gallatin Canyon south of Bozeman. One of the Gallatin Canyon fires was contained by late afternoon. The 19 Mile Fire is about 2 percent contained at 4,000 acres; it’s southeast of Butte, south of I-90 and north of Highway 2. Firefighters are working on structure protection in the Whiskey Gulch area.

19 Mile Fire
The 19 Mile fire torched this and other residences on Thursday. Photo by Steve DiGiovanna, Madison County Disaster & Emergency Services.

According to an AP report, a new wildfire in Paradise Valley near Yellowstone National Park took off Wednesday and resulted in minor injuries to firefighters and members of the public. The Pine Creek Fire caught residents unaware; they were forced to flee the village of Pine Creek, south of Livingston, without packing any bags. Park County Commissioner Marty Malone said about 200 people live in the area and that some tried to fight the fire themselves, including a man who turned a hose on the flames until the power to an electric water pump was cut off by the fire and the water stopped running.

The fire’s now at 12,000 acres with zero containment; a red flag warning is in effect through Saturday. There are approximately 150 personnel assigned, including two hotshot crews, nine engines, two water tenders, two dozers, and four helicopters. Additional resources will be arriving throughout the day.

Pine Creek Fire Map
Pine Creek Fire Map 08/30/2012 @ 9 a.m.

Some residents have been allowed back to their homes. East River Road is closed from the north junction at highway 89 down to just south of Barney Creek. Pine Creek Road is also closed. Areas that are still closed to all residents are those that live on Deep Creek Road, Deep Creek Bench Road, and Deep Creek Road South Fork. The area from Pool Creek down south to Barney Creek is closed to all residents, and also along Pine Creek Road.

High temperatures and erratic winds have pushed the fires through drought-dry fuels. With nine large fires burning in Montana, officials said there was increasing competition for adequate equipment and personnel. “We are making do with what we can get,” said U.S. Forest Service information officer Karen Tuscano.