Perimeter

Update on Montana fires, Robertson Draw and Deep Creek

1:56 p.m. MDT June 17, 2021

Map of the Robertson Draw Fire
Map of the Robertson Draw Fire. The red line was the perimeter Thursday morning June 17, 2021. The white line was the perimeter about 24 hours before.

Robertson Draw Fire
The fire spread to the north and south Wednesday, but not as much as in previous days. It was mapped overnight at 24,271 acres, a 24-hour increase of about 4,000 acres.

From the Incident Management Team Thursday morning:

“[Wednesday], moderated weather conditions allowed fire crews to work on the northeastern, eastern, and southeastern sides of the fire. Crews and equipment worked to tie in dozer lines to burned areas that had cooled down in the rangeland grass areas. Air tanker water and retardant drops were conducted along the northwest side of Mt. Maurice to check fire spread. Aircraft were also used on the south side to check fire spread. The fire remained active along portions of the northern edge and in the timbered areas south of Mt. Maurice. Additional firefighting crews and equipment arrived and Operations personnel from the incoming [Type 2 Incident Management] team worked closely with the local firefighters to increase their situational awareness and start developing firefighting plans for the next several days.

“Evacuation Orders are in effect for the areas of North and South Grove Creek, Gold Creek, Ruby Creek, and Robertson Draw east to Highway 72. Evacuations as a part of the Forest Closure Order include the USDA Forest Service Recreation Residences in Corral Creek, Spring Creek, Snow Creek, and Sheep Creek.”

To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Robertson Draw Fire, including the most current, click HERE.

Resources working on the fire Wednesday night included 4 hand crews, 17 engines, and 5 helicopters for a total of 162 personnel. At least 18 structures have been destroyed.

We have a series of photos of the fire taken over a three-day period from the same location. Check them out.

Deep Creek Fire

Map of the Deep Creek Fire
Map of the Deep Creek Fire. The red line was the perimeter Thursday morning June 17, 2021.

The Northern Rockies Type 1 Incident Management Team #1 assumed command of the fire at 6 a.m. Thursday.

The IMT reported Thursday at noon on InciWeb that the fire had burned 3,668 acres, but it is likely that the actual size is about 1,000 acres larger.

To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Deep Creek Fire, including the most current, click HERE.

The diminished fire intensity Wednesday allowed crews to reengage with a dozer, skidgens, and a hand crew on the southwest section of the fire. The plan for Thursday is to continue direct fire line construction on the southwest corner of the fire moving along the fire’s perimeter to the north while continuing to identify and work on spot fires to the north from Tuesday’s wind event.

The Grassy Mountain subdivision is still under an evacuation order.

Resources working on the fire Wednesday night included 1 hand crew, 6 engines, and 4 helicopters for a total of 94 personnel. There is no report of any structures that have been destroyed.

Fire Aviation reported that a helicopter working on the Deep Creek Fire crashed and burned June 15. There were five on board and all reportedly exited the aircraft before it ignited. They were assisted by a trooper from the Highway Patrol, Amanda Villa who was very close by when the crash, first described by the Montana DNRC as a “hard landing”, occurred. There were injuries, but no details have been released.

Helicopter crash Deep Creek Fire
This Tweet was published the morning of  June 17, 2021.

Robertson Draw Fire — three days of photos

Robertson Draw Fire
Robertson Draw Fire, as seen from the Red Lodge, MT area June 15, 2021. Photo by @MontanaRoots.

These photos of the Robertson Draw Fire were taken from Red Lodge, Montana over a three-day period, June 15 through 17, by @MontanaRoots.

Their Twitter profile:

Montana born & raised, Navy submarine officer vet, MSU Bobcat. Probably out hiking or heading down some backroad. Amateur photographer.

Robertson Draw Fire
Robertson Draw Fire, as seen from the Red Lodge, MT area June 15, 2021. Photo by @MontanaRoots.

The photos are looking toward Mount Maurice.

Robertson Draw Fire
Robertson Draw Fire, as seen from the Red Lodge, MT area June 16, 2021. Photo by @MontanaRoots.
Robertson Draw Fire
Robertson Draw Fire, as seen from the Red Lodge, MT area June 17, 2021. Photo by @MontanaRoots.

To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Robertson Draw Fire, including the most current, click HERE.

Robertson Draw Fire ran for 9 miles Tuesday south of Red Lodge, MT

Evacuation orders are in effect

Updated at 9:47 p.m. MDT June 16, 2021

On Wednesday the Robertson Draw Fire spread much more slowly than on Tuesday when it ran for 9 miles to the northeast. The calmer winds and higher humidity still resulted in additional acreage being consumed on the north and south sides, moving about a mile in each direction. The wind was generally from the north and northeast at 5 to 10 mph with gusts of 12 to 20 but the relative humidity in the high 40s moderated the rate of spread.

The calmer winds allowed aircraft to assist firefighters on the ground, including one DC-10 Very Large Air Tanker.

To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Robertson Draw Fire, including the most current, click HERE.

As of Wednesday afternoon the resources assigned include 5 hand crews, 10 engines, 4 helicopters, and 7 pieces of heavy equipment for a total of 200 personnel.

Robertson Draw Fire from Red Lodge
The fire as seen from Red Lodge. Probably taken Tuesday June 15.

11:08 a.m. MDT June 16, 2021

Robertson Draw Fire map
Map showing the perimeter of the Robertson Draw Fire (the red line) at 9:45 p.m. MDT June 15, 2021. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 4:24 a.m. June 16, 2021. The white line was the approximate perimeter at 3:48 a.m. MDT June 15, 2021.

The Robertson Draw Fire ran for about nine miles during a 24-hour period on Tuesday, growing to 20,436 acres by 9:45 p.m. It was spreading northeast toward the small community of Bearcreek on Highway 308 and Belfry on Highway 72. During a satellite overflight at 4:24 a.m. MDT Wednesday it was 2.5 miles from Red Lodge, 2 miles from Bearcreek, and 4 miles west of Highway 72. (See the map above.)

According to data gathered from the BLM Belfry weather station the fire was pushed Tuesday by 5 to 12 mph winds primarily from the southwest gusting at 10 to 26 mph while the relative humidity was in the single digits.

At 3 a.m. Wednesday the wind direction changed, coming out of the north. At 9:15 a.m. it was still from the north at 17 mph gusting to 32 but the relative humidity had risen to 42 percent. The forecast for the fire area Wednesday predicts 10 mph winds out of the north or northeast, 24 percent RH, and high temperatures in the high 70s. The winds should be out of the north through Sunday.

This change in wind direction should take some of the pressure temporarily off the communities of Red Lodge and Bearcreek. There is a chance of thunderstorms Sunday.

Robertson Draw Fire
Robertson Draw Fire as seen from Red Lodge, MT, June 15, 2021. Photo by Custer Gallatin National Forest.

The Incident Management Team posted the following evacuation information at 9:55 a.m. Wednesday:

Evacuation Orders (leave immediately):

• Area south of Highway 308 from Red Lodge to Highway 72, east of 72 to the Wyoming border. This excludes the town of Bearcreek and Belfry.
• The area west of Meeteetse Trail Road, and the east side of Highway 212 from Meeteetse Trail Road to Westminster Spires Church Camp.
• USDA Forest Service Recreation Residences in Corral Creek, Spring Creek, Snow Creek, and Sheep Creek.
• All campgrounds, dispersed camping and trailheads from the Lake Fork north to Red Lodge including the dispersed camping area just west of the Lake Fork Road.

Bearcreek is under an evacuation warning.

A Type 2 Incident Management Team is due to arrive Wednesday.

The fire was reported at about 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

Monday night the resources assigned to the fire according to the June 16 National Situation Report, included 2 hand crews, 1 engine, and 4 helicopters for a total of 81 personnel. These are very small numbers for a 20,436-acre fire with structures threatened and evacuations taking place.

On Tuesday the fire was burning through an area with no recorded fire history, going back many decades.

Robertson Draw Fire history
Fire history, in the area of the current Robertson Draw Fire.

Robertson Draw Fire in Southern Montana prompts evacuations

Update at 7:44 p.m. MDT June 15, 2021

satellite photo two wildfires in Montana June 15, 2021
Satellite photo showing the smoke from two wildfires in Montana at 7:41 p.m. MDT June 15, 2021; the Deep Creek and Robertson Draw Fires. The Robertson Draw Fire shows massive growth over the previous three and a half hours. NASA. GOES 16.

The satellite photo taken by GOES 16 at 7:41 p.m. MDT June 15 shows an enormous smoke plume from the Robertson Draw Fire spreading to the northeast. It is heading directly to Billings, the lights from which can be seen through the smoke.

To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Robertson Draw Fire, including the most recent, click HERE.


5:13 p.m. MDT June 15, 2021

map Robertson Draw Fire
Map showing the location of the Robertson Draw Fire. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 3 a.m. MDT June 15, 2021. The other colors are from earlier satellite overflights.

The Robertson Draw Fire 9 miles south of Red Lodge, Montana is burning vigorously Tuesday afternoon, producing a very large smoke column easily seen on satellite photos.

Tuesday morning firefighters estimated the size at 2,000 acres but that number could be very different by the time the sun sets.

The fire is in south-central Montana one mile north of the MT/WY state line, and five miles east of the famous switchbacks on the Beartooth Highway, US 212.

3-D map Robertson Draw Fire
3-D map showing the APPROXIMATE location of the Robertson Draw Fire, based on satellite heat data at 3:48 a.m. MDT June 15, 2021.

Evacuations and evacuation warnings are in place for multiple areas near the fire. Firefighters expected a critical fire weather day on Tuesday with Red Flag Warnings in effect due to the hot, dry, and windy weather conditions. According to the Type 3 Incident Management Team, the Gold and Ruby Creek areas were re-evacuated Tuesday morning.

The fire ranges from 7,000′ above sea level up to 9,300′.

Robertson Draw Fire
Robertson Draw Fire, June 14, 2021, InciWeb photo.

About 80 firefighters are working to suppress the fire. Resources include hand crews, engines, helicopters, a rappel crew, and support personnel. Air tankers are assisting firefighters as needed and available. A Type 2 Incident Management Team has been ordered.

satellite photo two wildfires in Montana June 15, 2021
Satellite photo showing the smoke from two wildfires in Montana at 4:11 p.m. MDT June 15, 2021; the Deep Creek and Robertson Draw Fires.

Another fire in Montana, the Deep Creek Fire, is 128 miles northwest of the Robertson Draw Fire, and 40 miles southeast of Helena. It is also burning vigorously, east of Townsend on both sides of US 12. This first photo shows what it looked like on June 13.

Deep Creek Fire
Deep Creek Fire, as seen from MM19 on Hwy. 12 near Townsend, MT. Photo by Mike Vinion June 13, 2021.

To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Deep Creek Fire, including the most current, click HERE.

Two women killed in I-15 accident as smoke obscured the highway

In Northern Montana north of Conrad

 I-15 North of Conrad, MT fire
Heat from a fire detected by a satellite near I-15 north of Conrad, MT, May 3, 2021 near the site of the fatal crash as reported by the Montana Highway Patrol.

A tractor-trailer that slowed as it traveled through a cloud of smoke from a controlled burn near the highway led to a chain-reaction crash on Interstate 15 near Conrad May 3, killing two young women from Columbia Falls.

A chain reaction series of crashes began when a tractor trailer slowed to 25 mph as it entered the smoke according to the Montana Highway Patrol (MHP). A second tractor trailer plowed into the first, then a sedan with the two women hit the second truck and a fourth vehicle, a sedan, hit the vehicle with the two women, who died at the scene. Four people in the fourth vehicle were injured.

The crash occurred at approximately 1:15 p.m. on I-15 at mile marker 344, about five miles north of Conrad, 0.78 mile south of Ledger Road (MT 366).

During a 2:54 p.m. MDT overflight on the day of the crash a satellite detected heat from a fire just west of the location of the crash reported by the MHP. According to Google Earth imagery virtually everything within a mile of the site, other than roads, is agricultural fields, including the location of the detected fire. It appears likely that the controlled burn was from agricultural or debris burning, rather than a prescribed burn used by land managers to reduce hazardous fuels or restore fire to a fire dependent ecosystem.

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

Wildfire east of Browning, MT burns 25,000 acres

The fire prompted evacuations on the Blackfeet Reservation

map fire east of Browning, MT
Map showing the approximate location of the fire east of Browning, MT. The red dots represent heat detected by satellites at 3 p.m. March 28, 2021.

A fire that started about a mile east of Blackfeet Community College burned 25,000 acres between Browning and Meriwether in northern Montana Sunday.

The fire was pushed across farm lands by southwest winds gusting to 54 mph while the relative humidity was in the mid-20s. There is a report that one structure was destroyed.

The Blackfeet Covid-19 Incident Command reported that local fire departments suppressed the fire along with Blackfeet Fire Management and the Chief Mountain Interagency Hot Shots, a crew based in Browning.

Rain that started at about 9 p.m. Sunday followed by snow during the night and temperatures in the low 20s slowed the spread of the blaze.

Montana DOT camera at Browning, MT shows snow
The Montana DOT camera at Browning, MT showed snow at 2:08 p.m. 3-29-2021.

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