More than 27,000 firefighters are deployed on wildfires in the United States.
(Originally published at 10:35 a.m. MDT September 6, 2107)
These maps show the locations of large wildfires that are currently active in the Northwest United States. The red, yellow, and orange dots represent heat detected by a satellite in the 24 hour period ending at 10 a.m. MDT September 6.
According to the National Interagency Coordination Center, today there are 50 large uncontained wildfires in the United States that are being aggressively suppressed. In addition, there are another 35 fires that are not being fully suppressed.
Very large numbers of firefighting resources are currently assigned across the United States, including 560 hand crews, 1,865 engines, and 222 helicopters, for a total of 27,256 personnel.
As of yesterday 7.9 million acres has burned this year nationally, which compares to the 10-year average of 5.4 million acres for this date.
The video below shows heat and smoke in Idaho and Montana detected by a satellite on September 3 and 4, 2017.
The Rice Ridge fire has burned 108,126 acres just east of Seeley Lake 35 miles northeast of Missoula, Montana.
Above: The red line on the map shows the perimeters of the Rice Ridge and Reef Fires at 12:45 a.m. September 5, 2017. The white line was the perimeter of the Rice Ridge Fire about 24 hours before.
(Originally published at 9:18 a.m. MDT September 5, 2017)
On Monday the Rice Ridge Fire grew on the south, east, and north sides adding another 6,701 acres, and has now burned 108,126 acres. It merged at Otis Creek with another fire to the north, the 10,424-acre Reef Fire. Combined, the fires have blackened 118,550 acres, well beyond the 100,000 threshold of becoming a “megafire”.
The spread on Monday was much less than on Sunday when it almost doubled. Numerous spot fires out ahead of the main fire from Sunday’s growth are active on the east side. On the south it spread for about a mile and crossed Cottonwood Lake-Monture Road.
The transition from Thompson’s Type 2 Incident Management Team to Poncin’s Type 1 Incident Management Team occurred at 6 a.m., Tuesday, September 5.
The weather forecast calls for moderate winds with rising temperatures through Friday, but the relative humidity will reach down into the teens each day.
There is not much expectation of rain on the fire this week except for a 20 to 30 percent chance Thursday night and Friday.
Resources assigned include 15 hand crews, 64 engines, and 4 helicopters. The total number of personnel on the fire decreased Monday from 817 to 787.
At 10:45 p.m. Sunday it was mapped at 101,425 acres.
Above: The Rice Ridge Fire. Image uploaded to InciWeb September 3, 2017. Uncredited.
(Originally published at 10:11 a.m. MDT September 4, 2017)
The Rice Ridge Fire just east of Seeley Lake, Montana, spread substantially Sunday, almost doubling in size. During a 10:45 mapping flight Sunday night, it was discovered that 48,531 acres had burned during the previous 24 hours bringing the total to 101,419 acres, achieving “megafire” status when it exceeded 100K acres. The blaze is 36 miles northeast of Missoula.
The west side of the fire near Seeley Lake did not change — the growth was on the north and east sides.
The key factors in the extreme fire behavior and spread on Sunday were the relative humidity and the wind. During the morning the wind was out of the south, which accounted for the growth on the north side. Then it slowly changed to be from the southwest and the west and by 9 p.m. was coming from the north.
The relative humidity just north of the community of Seeley Lake reached 8 percent Sunday, while the temperature maxed out at 88 degrees with 6 to 12 mph winds gusting at 14 to 18. The forecast for Monday calls for more moderate conditions — 78 degrees, east winds at 10-13, and 21 percent relative humidity.
The objective on the fire is not to put it out or contain it, but to herd it around as necessary to protect private property and structures. On Sunday 737 personnel were assigned to the fire which so far has run up costs of almost $30 million.
Above: Wildfires in Montana and Idaho September 3, 2017. The map shows heat detected by a satellite during the 24-hour period ending at 10 p.m. MDT September 3, 2017.
(Originally published at 5:47 a.m. MDT September 4, 2017.)
Residents in eastern Montana and northern Idaho have been living with wildfires that are nearby for a couple of months and the situation continues today. Dozens of large fires are still eating up the acreage and creating heavy smoke and sometimes “unhealthy” air quality according to the monitoring services of the EPA and other organizations.
Above: A 3-D map of the Rice Ridge Fire, looking northeast. The red line was the perimeter at 10:30 p.m. MDT August 28, 2017. The white line was the perimeter two days earlier
(Originally published at 9:37 a.m. MDT August 29, 2017)
The Rice Ridge Fire made an unexpected southerly surge Monday evening toward the community of Seeley Lake after the wind direction shifted from the south and southwest to come out of the north and northwest. At about 7 p.m. Monday fire officials issued a mandatory evacuation order and three hours later expanded the area to include much of the community.
When the fire was mapped by a fixed wing aircraft at 10:30 p.m. Monday the Rice Ridge Fire had approached to within 1.5 miles of the Seeley Lake Community after a large finger of fire spread from the western flank. Sunday evening the incident management team had written in their evening update:
Containment is up to 22% as crews completed fire line along the west flank of the fire. Firefighters successfully completed small firing operations along the west and southwest edge of the fire that will aid in securing fire line.
The term “contain” or containment percentage means a fire line has been established along a portion of the perimeter. It does not mean the fire is “controlled” or “out”. A 2-foot wide or 100-foot wide fireline is not guaranteed to stop the fire at that point. Strong winds have been known to blow burning embers and start new spot fires more than a mile away. The incident management team appears to be computing the containment percentage the way it should be done — showing the percentage of the fire perimeter where a fireline is completed and the spread is at least temporarily halted. The fire could continue to spread across the fireline, but it is not thought likely. The unexpected wind shift may have been the unlikely occurrence in this case. The definition of these and hundreds of other fire management terms are in the National Wildfire Coordinating Group Glossary.
An incursion into the air space over the fire by a drone shut down all firefighting aircraft Sunday evening.
Seeley Lake is closed so that firefighting aircraft can safely access the lake to refill their water buckets or tanks.
The incident management team is not releasing a great deal of information about the fire. It has been almost two weeks since photos were posted on their Inciweb page.