Type 1 and 2 teams ordered to respond to western Montana wildfires

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.

map Roaring Lion Fire
Map of the Roaring Lion Fire at 3:07 a.m. MDT August 1, 2016. Click to enlarge.

Fanned by hot winds, the Roaring fire exploded in a massive plume of smoke on Sunday. Visit InciWeb to see more photos of the fire. Also, check out this time-lapse video of the fire (note: it will take about 20 seconds for images of the fire to start).

Roaring Lion fire, July 31, 2016
Roaring Lion fire, July 31, 2016

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.

Here are some overview details for both fires:

Roaring Lion, Bitterroot National Forest:

  • Residents in 500 homes evacuated, or warned that they should be prepared to evacuate.
  • 3 Hot Shot crews; a hand crew from the Bitterroot National Forest
  • 5 helicopters, one airtanker
  • US Highway 93 has been closed
  • All personnel planning to work through the night to establish containment lines once the wind dies down.
  • Strong winds in the area.

Copper King, Lolo National Forest:

  • 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.

U.S. Drought Monitor, Montana

Red Flag Warnings, July 31, 2016

Red Flag Warnings, July 31, 2016

The National Weather Service has posted Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches for areas in California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Montana.

The maps were current as of 7:45 a.m. MDT on Sunday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts and maps. For the most current data visit this NWS site.


Drones briefly halt air operations over Pioneer fire

Helicopter Pioneer Fire

(Updated 4:35 p.m. MDT, July 31, 2016)

Drones shut down air operations over the Pioneer fire for 45 minutes on Sunday, while the fire continued to spread due to erratic weather conditions.

In a post on InciWeb, the incident management team said the drone incursion came at a critical time for firefighters.

Aviation operations once again stopped for 45 minutes during a critical period of fire suppression due to an unmanned aircraft incursion. IF YOU FLY WE CAN’T. PLEASE DO NOT FLY DRONES IN OR NEAR THE FIRE AREA.

Such a delay seems to have become common place on many fires, and last week incident management teams in California and Montana reported halting air operations due to drones in the area.

A spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center has urged people not to flying drones into wildfire areas, and has said that people caught flying drones in wildfire zones could face criminal charges.

Meanwhile, the Pioneer fire has burned 27,271 acres and is 27 percent contained.


Crews on the 18,933-acre Pioneer fire north of Idaho City are facing a weekend of windy weather, which will likely fan the flames of a fire that has been burning since July 18.

Here’s the outlook for Sunday’s weather:

A passing cold front this evening may produce thunderstorms with gusty, erratic winds and increased fire behavior.Smoke will likely again be visible from great distances.

Crews are also grappling with poor access, steep terrain, dry forests and old mining sites, according to posts on InciWeb.

On Friday, heavy smoke from the fire drifted east and triggered warnings for unhealthy levels of smoke pollution. Smoke from the Pioneer fire was also drifting into Northern Colorado.

Saturday’s outlook in Idaho, however, predicted normal air quality, according to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

Smoke expected to drift over Northern Rockies this weekend

Wildfire Smoke Map July 29, 2016
Smoke from U.S. wildfires, July 29, 2016. Weatherunderground.

Smoke from western wildfires in Idaho and Colorado is expected to worsen over the weekend as it drifts east.

The Pioneer fire burning outside of Boise emitted a pillowing plume of smoke on Friday that could be seen from miles away. As of Friday night, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality had issued an unhealthy air quality warning for areas around Ketchum, due east of the Pioneer fire.

Colorado residents are also likely to see more smoke in the area this weekend as smoke from the Pioneer fire drifts east and mixes with plumes from Colorado’s Beaver Creek fire.

On Friday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment warned Northern Colorado residents that wildfire smoke will likely be visible for much of the weekend.

Colorado’s Beaver Creek fire expected to burn into October

Firefighters are anticipating that it will take them until late October to contain the Beaver Creek fire, which is burning in one of the forests hardest hit by mountain pine beetle.

Tactics being used to contain the blaze have already emerged as a case study in how to suppress fire in an environment transfigured by thousands of dead trees.

Beetle-kill trees in the area thwarted firefighters’ attempts at a direct attack — downed trees made building a fireline difficult and gusts from helicopter rotors only caused more trees to fall, according to a lessons learned report published on July 27.

An indirect approach containing the fire became essential when initial attack crews felt radiant heat from flames a half a mile away:

Because of the extreme fire behavior exhibited early on in the Beaver Creek Fire, firefighters knew a direct attack would be both dangerous and ineffective…Firefighters removed fuels, wrapped buildings, laid hoses and sprinklers around the structures, and strategically burned out around buildings in advance of the fire.

The conditions in the Routt National Forest, along the Colorado-Wyoming border, also proved challenging to firefighter safety, according to a post from the incident management team on InciWeb.

The fire is burning in heavy beetle killed timber. The infested trees are subject to blowing over contributing large amounts of down timber and providing fuel for extreme fire behavior when strong winds and terrain features are in alignment, making the timbered areas unsafe for firefighters.

The fire, which started on June 19 in north-central Colorado, spread by several hundred acres during a hot, windy and humid day this week and forced firefighters to pull back to safety zones, The Denver Post reported.

As of July 29, the fire had burned 30,137 acres and is 12 percent contained.

Thanks to some northwesterly winds, Colorado residents can expect to see smoke from the Beaver Creek fire and other western wildfires this weekend, according to an update from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

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

Damage assessment teams document 57 homes destroyed in Soberanes Fire

By Ryan Maye Handy and Bill Gabbert

(UPDATED at 12:27 p.m. MDT August 2, 2016)

Soberanes Fire map
Map of the Soberanes Fire at 2:30 a.m. August 2, 2016.

Damage assessment teams have identified 57 residences and 11 outbuildings that have been destroyed in the Soberanes Fire between Big Sur and Monterey, California.

The Incident Commander, Todd Derum, reports that firefighters have achieved 18 percent containment after fighting the blaze for 12 days, which has now blackened over 43,000 acres.

Several areas are still under evacuation orders.

On the west side the fire has come close to reaching the Pacific Ocean, while the east side is 14 to 18 miles west of US Highway 101.

Resources assigned to the fire include: Engines: 510, Water tenders: 51, Helicopters: 17, Air Tankers: 6, Hand Crews: 107, Dozers: 72, Other: 14, Total Personnel: 5,451.


(UPDATED 10:41 a.m. MDT, August 1, 2016)

The Soberanes fire in Big Sur continues to rage with little containment, and on Sunday it prompted more evacuations of local residents.

Businesses in the area have already begun to suffer from the shutdown of various state parks in the famously scenic coastal region, according to a story from Market Watch. 

As of Monday morning, the fire had burned 40,618 acres and was 18 percent contained, according to InciWeb.

The rugged firefighting conditions mixed with hot weather have made the fire harder to contain:

Extremely remote and rugged terrain with limited access coupled with hot and dry weather and an above average cured grass crop has resulted in a high resistance to control.


The Soberanes fire in Monterey County has shifted California’s focus from Los Angeles to Big Sur, where the fire has shut down several state parks, destroyed dozens of homes and continues to burn with little containment.

Here are some of the latest stats on the Soberanes fire (or read more background on the Soberanes fire):

  • 29,877 acres – 15 percent contained
  • 2,000 structures threatened
  • 41 homes and 10 outbuildings destroyed
  • One fatality, a bulldozer-operator who died after a rollover.
  • Total personnel: 4,245
  • Resources:  394 engines, 94 crews, 14 helicopters, 6 air tankers, 67 dozers, 41 water tenders.