Above: Wildfires in Western Montana, July 25, 2017.
(Originally published at 10:30 a.m. MDT July 25, 2017)
Residents of Missoula, Montana are used to the impacts wildfire season brings to the area. Occasionally the area is inundated with smoke for days or weeks at a time. Today at least a dozen large wildfires are burning within 70 miles of Missoula. Most of them are south or east of the city so the northwest wind predicted today will blow much of the smoke from the fires away from town.
The national Incident Management Situation Report groups fires by Geographic Area and lists those Areas by priority, and within each Area the fires are listed by priority. The Northern Rockies Geographic Area, identified as the highest priority today, is comprised of Northern Idaho, all of Montana, most of North Dakota, and relatively small portions of Wyoming and South Dakota.
Today’s report lists 21 large fires in the Northern Rockies with 18 of them being in Montana. The first 10 priorities are in Montana and 8 of them are in the western part of the state.
The two that are in the eastern part are the top two priorities in the Area:
Lodgepole Complex of Fires: 250,000 acres, 16 homes have been destroyed. Firefighters are making good progress. Over the last 48 hours the only large growth has been on the northern end near Lake Fort Peck. More information.
Buffalo Fire: This is a new fire reported July 24. At last report it had burned 2,000 acres and is near the Wyoming/Montana state line. An Incident Management Team from Alaska that was staged in the state has been assigned.
Below is some information about a couple of fires closer to Missoula:
Lolo Peak Fire; 1,090 acres 17 miles southwest of Missoula and 10 miles southwest of Lolo. It was active Monday and Monday night on the north, west, and south sides, spotting across a drainage and advancing to Lantern Ridge.
Sapphire Complex comprised of Sliderock, Little Hogback, and Goat Creek fires: 20 to 31 miles southeast of Missoula. All three fires were active Monday, primarily on the east and southeast sides. Combined they have burned 4,539 acres.
An executive order signed by the Governor of Montana Sunday will enable the state to mobilize National Guard helicopters (Blackhawks and CH47), some firefighters, and kitchens. It also makes it possible for local governments to access the Governor’s emergency fund if they have enacted their own 2 mil levy.
The video above was uploaded Monday August 29 the day before Highway 89 opened.
The south entrance to Yellowstone National Park opened Tuesday morning after having been closed for the last week after the Berry Fire burned across U.S. Highway 89 at the north end of Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park.
The fire was active Monday on the northeast, south, and west sides and has burned about 13,200 acres. A large smoke column actually assisted firefighters working on the east side of the highway Monday by shading the fire on that side of the lake, slowing the spread.
A new fire in Yellowstone National Park is named the Central Fire, probably because it is in the center of the park. It is 9 miles west of the Lake developed area and 2 miles south of Hayden Valley. The fire is just northwest of the 2015 Spruce fire which is expected to block the fire’s growth to the east. Currently it is burning in mature lodgepole pine.
The Maple Fire has spread considerably over the last several days and is within about 2 miles of Highway 191 north of West Yellowstone, Montana, and about 3.5 miles from the community. It has crossed from Wyoming into Montana and on the south side is burning along the Madison River very close to the West Entrance Road (Highway 20). It has reached the east side of the Boundary Fire that spread on its west side to within a quarter mile of Highway 191.
The staff at Yellowstone wants visitors to know that all entrances and roads within the park are open. Visitor facilities and businesses in the park and surrounding communities are not impacted by the fires and remain open.
The Buffalo Fire is in the north-central part of Yellowstone about 2 miles north of the Northeast Entrance Road (Highway 212). The fire has burned about 4,000 acres, a few of which may be just across the state line in Montana.
Above: the Maple Fire burns along the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park August 29, 2016. Video by Jeremy Weber of the West Yellowstone News.
The south entrance into Yellowstone National Park is still closed by the Berry Fire which is being monitored, rather than suppressed, in order to benefit the ecosystem.
On Tuesday the fire spread farther into the Bridger-Teton National Forest after burning out of Grand Teton National Park. The northeast and south sides were the most active where it moved about half a mile beyond the previous perimeter.
A Type 2 incident management team led by Incident Commander Tim Rodie is now in place. He is assisted by 115 personnel, which is an increase of 77 over the previous day. There are 4 hand crews, 5 engines, and 3 helicopters assigned to the fire.
The incident management team is calling the fire 6,819 acres.
(UPDATED at 5 p.m. MDT August 23, 2016)
The Berry Fire continued to spread Tuesday into the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway.
US Highway 89/191/287 in Grand Teton National Park is closed at Leeks Marina on the south, and at the South Gate of Yellowstone National Park on the north.
The weather recorded at the Coyote Meadows weather station 12 miles west of the fire has been fairly moderate for the last 24 hours, showing 2 to 6 mph winds out of the southwest and west and 70 degrees Tuesday afternoon. The exception to the “moderate” weather has been the relative humidity which got up to only 35 percent overnight, and at 5 p.m. Tuesday was 12 percent. That will change Tuesday night when the RH increases to 71 percent, but it will fall to 19 percent Wednesday afternoon. The wind Tuesday night and Wednesday will be out of the northeast and north at 5 to 13 mph. This could influence the fire to move to the south over the next 24 hours.
There are still no plans to put out the fire. Grand Teton National Park explained on Tuesday in a statement:
Fire management goals for the Berry Fire include providing for public and firefighter safety; suppressing fire to protect structures and campgrounds; and monitoring fire growth as it burns in wilderness and contributes to long-term forest health.
(Originally published at 10:14 a.m. MDT August 23, 2016)
The Berry Fire in Grand Teton National Park more than doubled in size Monday, closing Highway 89 which leads to the south entrance of Yellowstone National Park. The highway is closed at Leeks Marina road (south) and the Flagg Ranch (north) and will remain closed indefinitely, a park spokesperson announced Tuesday morning.
Pushed by a 5 to 8 mph southwest wind gusting up to 22 mph, the fire ran out of the park to the northeast crossing the northern tip of Jackson Lake, the Snake River, and Highway 89. It then spread into the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway and the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Lizard Creek Campground has been evacuated.
The rapid fire spread on Monday added about 3,800 acres, bringing the size of the Berry Fire up to approximately 6,900 acres as of 4:31 a.m. on Tuesday.
Motorists expecting to enter Yellowstone from the popular south entrance will be forced to take long detours stretching for hundreds of miles. They may not be pleased to learn that National Park Service officials decided on July 25 when the Berry Fire started to allow the fire to “enhance the area’s natural resources”, rather than suppress it.
The moderately strong winds that caused the fire to leave Grand Teton National Park were accompanied Monday by 7 percent relative humidity and 80 degree temperatures.
Highway 89 south of Yellowstone’s south entrance remains closed due to fire. At this time, there is no estimated time of opening.
Now that the fire has closed Highway 89 and burned outside the park they have ordered a higher level team, a Type 2 team to manage the fire, with Incident Commander Tim Roide. The next level up would be a Type 1 team.
There are three active fires in Yellowstone National Park, the Maple, Fawn, and Buffalo fires. We covered these earlier. They all continued to spread on Monday. The Maple fire east of West Yellowstone, Montana marched another mile to the north, but was active on most of the perimeter. The park says all roads and businesses remain open, including the east and west entrances and the highway that goes right by the Maple Fire, Highway 20.
Earlier on Monday we repeated the information provided by the National Park Service that the roads in Yellowstone National Park remained open, in spite of the five ongoing fires in that park and just to the south, Grand Teton National Park. That changed Monday evening.
1 of 3 – Berry Fire causes temporary road closure of highway 89 between Leek’s Marina on south and Flagg Ranch on north.
There are five wildfires burning in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in Wyoming and Montana, which together have burned over 28,000 acres. Four are being managed with a less than full suppression strategy, while one was aggressively attacked and has not been very active in the last 24 hours.
Northwest Wyoming is under a Red Flag Warning on Monday.
Officials in Yellowstone National Park emphasize that all roads leading into and through the park are open. Park visitor facilities, including park concession-operated services and businesses in the surrounding communities are not impacted by the fires and remain open.
Yellowstone National Park fires
Fawn Fire, 1,496 acres in the northwest corner of the park. Since it started August 4 it has been intermittently active and has been spreading during the last two days.
Maple Fire, 22,448 acres 4 miles east of West Yellowstone, Montana. It was first reported by personnel in a smokejumper aircraft passing over the park. The fire has come very close to US Highway 20, but has not crossed it. The highway leads to the west entrance into the park. The fire has been active on most of its perimeter over the last 24 hours. Should smoke or fire activity increase, pilot cars may be used to safely escort vehicles through the area.
Buffalo Fire, 2,279 acres, in the north-central part of the park, 3 miles northeast of Tower Junction (US Highway 212 and the Grand Loop Road) and half a mile south of the park’s northern boundary. The recent activity has been on the north edge of the fire. Since it was reported on August 13 it has been managed under a combination of monitoring and point-protection strategies.
Boundary Fire, 192 acres in Montana 5 miles north of West Yellowstone, Montana and very close to the park’s western boundary. Park personnel have actively suppressed this fire, and it has not been very active in the last 24 hours. A smaller Incident Management Team, a Type 4 team, assumed command Monday morning. Firefighters are mopping up and removing hazardous trees within the perimeter.
Grand Teton National Park
Berry Fire, 1,785 acres in the north end of the park, one mile west of the northern end of Jackson Lake, and 2 miles west of Highway 89 (providing photo opportunities for passing tourists). The fire has been active over most of its perimeter during the last 24 hours. It has been burning for almost a month and is now being managed by a Type 3 Incident Management Team which is planning for the expected growth of the fire. An objective of the Team is to “enhance the area’s natural resources where appropriate”. They further state, “The fire will be monitored and management actions will be implemented in advance of any potential impact on values at risk.” The fire has not required the closure of any roads.