Five firefighters were injured July 22 when their fire engine was burned over while they were working on a wildfire in northeast Montana. They were constructing fireline on the Devils Creek Fire in Garfield County when a passing thunderstorm created erratic winds that blew the fire over their position.
At least three of the firefighters were taken to a burn center in Salt Lake City.
The lightning-caused fire is burning in rough, steep terrain near the Pine Grove School, about 36 miles northwest of Jordan, east of the Devils Creek Road which accesses the south shore of Fort Peck Reservoir.
Personnel on site continue to fight the blaze, which has burned about 375 acres of BLM and private land.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Al, Dick, and Tom.
The Dixie Fire, six air miles south of Chester, California, was very active Friday, but not as much as on Thursday due to a decrease in wind speeds. While it still created convection columns of smoke topped by white pyrocumulus clouds, they were not as large and the fire did not increase in size as much as in previous days, but it still grew by tens of thousands of acres, expanding to 181,289 acres by Saturday morning.
The east side near Caribou, Twain, and Paxton, as well as the nearby Fly Fire at Kiddie, spread one to two miles further east. The Fly Fire is a new fire that started Thursday.
Wednesday night firefighters began a firing operation north of the fire to create a burned area south of Lake Almanor intended to stop the northward progress of the fire. They are working from a road system south of and parallel with Highway 89, starting from Canyondam working west and then plan to circle around the northwest side of the fire toward Butte Meadows. The prescription for the firing calls for it to be done at night, conditions that make it easier for firefighters to control the fire intensity. This is similar to conducting a prescribed fire. By early Saturday morning crews had initiated firing along approximately nine miles of roads, working toward the west-northwest. The project can be seen on the map above, appearing as a strip of white lines south of Highway 89.
The fire has been split into two zones organizationally, East and West, each with its own Incident Management Team.
The weather forecast for Saturday calls for warmer and drier conditions with relative humidities in the upper single digits and temperatures ranging from 80 to 100 degrees depending on the elevation. Wind speeds will be in the 10 to 15 mph range. The very low humidity, high temperatures, and wind, combined with the very low fuel moistures will present difficult conditions for firefighters.
4:56 p.m. PDT July 23, 2021
The 143,000-acre Dixie Fire south of Chester, California was extremely active Friday afternoon, at times creating multiple smoke columns topped with pyrocumulus clouds. The growth on Thursday and Friday has been described as explosive.
The fire is being fought by 70 hand crews, 355 engines, and 31 helicopters for a total of 4,005 personnel.
Thursday evening the Dixie Fire was 6 air miles south of Chester, 14 miles northeast of Paradise, and 25 miles northeast of Oroville. A new fire nearby, the Fly Fire, was 4 miles north of Quincy.
Calmer winds Friday allowed firefighters on the 65,152-acre Tamarack Fire 14 miles southeast of South Lake Tahoe to make progress, especially on the north and northeast sides of the fire. On Saturday they are expecting similar conditions which should allow additional containment efforts.
The Incident Management Team recorded a very informative video Saturday morning, featuring Operations Section Chief Pat Seekins.
1:40 p.m. PDT July 23, 2021
On Thursday the Tamarack Fire, pushed by strong winds, spread east across US Highway 395 in spite of firefighters’ best efforts to stop it at the highway with a burning operation. Within a few hours it burned about 2,500 acres east of the highway, becoming well established on that side.
On Tuesday the fire burned from California into Nevada. A mapping flight at 7:25 p.m. Thursday determined it had grown by about 7,000 acres to a total of 58,417 acres.
It crossed 395 a mile or two north of Holbrook Junction, which is the intersection with Highway 208. Friday afternoon the FlightRadar24 service showed a great deal of air tanker activity southeast of the junction. That would indicate that the fire had spread into the area between 208 and Topaz Lake, but it remains to be confirmed.
There are 1,353 personnel working on the fire and more resources are on order. Firefighting operations continue around the clock, with additional crews added to the night shift. Night operations include structure protection and firing operations when conditions are suitable.
Firefighters have continued to keep the fire south of Highway 88, which with Highway 89 were both closed in the fire area Friday morning to all traffic except incident personnel. A portion of 395 was also closed Friday morning for firefighter and public safety.
On Thursday an additional 1,369 people were evacuated primarily from the Hwy 395 corridor, bringing the total number of those evacuated to 2,439.
The Bootleg Fire 27 miles northeast of Klamath Falls, Oregon grew Wednesday to 399,359 acres in spite of the higher humidity and reduced wind speeds. The less extreme fire behavior gave firefighters the opportunity to construct and improve firelines. The forecast for Thursday afternoon should enable those activities to continue, but a warming and drying trend is expected into the weekend.
As of July 21, $41.5 million has been spent on the fire and 184 structures have been destroyed.
“Fire crews and support personnel have made significant progress in containing this fire in the last few days.”said Joe Prummer, Incident Commander trainee of Pacific Northwest Incident Management Team 2. “However, we still have a long road ahead of us to ensure the safety of the surrounding communities.”
As the need for night operations on the southern zone decreases, those resources are being moved to the day shift or sent home for rest as they time-out.