Another Montana wildfire claims two homes near Columbus

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Pine Crest Fire, InciWeb
Pine Crest Fire, InciWeb

The Pine Crest wildfire near Columbus, Montana burned two homes this weekend and forced dozens of residents to evacuate, the Billings-Gazette reported on Sunday.

The fire started around 1 p.m. on Saturday five miles west of Columbus, which is west of Billings. As of Monday morning it had burned 3,000 acres and was 10 percent contained on Sunday night. Three helicopters fought the fire along with 98 firefighters, according to the Billings-Gazette. InciWeb reports show that one firefighter was injured.

A subdivision was expected to remain on evacuation until Monday morning, when the Columbus Fire Department planned to host a public meeting. The fire’s cause is still under investigation, according to InciWeb.

Another Montana fire near Red Lodge briefly shut down a local ski area on Saturday. The West Fork fire was 20 percent contained at 400 acres as of Saturday night. In a post on its Facebook page, Red Lodge Fire Rescue said the fire ignited when a days-old controlled burn rekindled.

Snowpack in south-central Montana is below average, hovering around 89 percent of normal, according to the latest reports from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. In the National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook released for March through June, Montana was not expected to have an above-average early fire season.

“The periods of warm chinook flow during this time melted snow accumulations over all but the highest elevations east of the Continental Divide in Montana, and dried fine fuels enough to allow sporadic grass and brush fire activity,” the report said. “This is not an unusual occurrence as these warm dry periods in winter occur most years to some degree.”


Time lapse photography of Colorado fire

Matt Johnson shot this time lapse photography of scenes in the southern Colorado mountains, plus smoke columns from the Windy Pass, West Fork, and Papoose fires. All of the footage is beautiful, but in case you’re wondering, the fire scenes begin at 1:55.

Mr. Johnson’s description:

Colorado is currently experiencing some of the largest wildfires in the state’s history. In July, I visited the Bruce Spruce Ranch a little ways outside of Pagosa Springs and watched as the Windy Pass, West Fork, and Papoose wildfires burned thousands of acres of forest. I have never seen such a powerful event up close like this before, it was truly humbling.

Please visit and download this film in high definition. The video itself is 3 Gigabytes in size and looks amazing.

Music by Salomon Lighthelm at The Music Bed //!/In-The-Sullen-Silence-5326/

If you have trouble viewing the video, you can try the Vimeo site.

Excellent video from the West Fork Complex

This video was obviously shot by a firefighter on the West Fork Complex and has some excellent images of the fire. Be sure and notice the horizontal roll vortex at 1:35.

West Fork Complex from Hon schlapfer on Vimeo.

The description of the video as it appears on Vimeo:
“One for the record books! June 13-24 2013
Started as ICT3 20 acres in the Wiminuche wilderness San Juan National Forest.Fire ran to 5,000 acres called NIMO Team. west Fork Jumped the continental divide, closed HWY 160,evacuated the town of South Fork,Got the call to get over to the Papoose fire,Evacuated town, found missing Boy Scout troop, and thanks to some solid folks we saved every house.”

We took the liberty of getting a screen grab from the video and decided that it needed a caption:

West Fork Complex


Photos from the West Fork Fire

West Fork Fire, June 20, 2013 Photo by Pike Hot Shots
West Fork Fire, June 20, 2013 Photo by Pike Hot Shots

If you’re not keeping up with the status of the West Fork Fire in south-central Colorado which has forced the entire town of South Fork to evacuate, you have missed seeing these very impressive photos taken by the Colorado-based Pike Hotshots. If you’d like to comment on the photos or the fire, please do so at the main West Fork Fire article which is updated as conditions change.

West Fork Fire, June 20, 2013
West Fork Fire, June 20, 2013. Photo by Pike Hot Shots.
West Fork Fire, June 20, 2013
West Fork Fire, June 20, 2013. Photo by Pike Hot Shots.

Kansas is getting the worst of the wildfire smoke this morning

Distribution of smoke from wildfires
Distribution of smoke from wildfires at 10 a.m. MDT, June 20, 2013

As you can see in the map above which represents the distribution of smoke from wildfires, residents in Kansas are being exposed to what to them is probably surprisingly high levels of smoke. I believe the Silver Fire in southwest New Mexico can be blamed for a large share of the smoke, in addition to four large fires in Mexico that are 15 to 60 miles south of the border. The West Fork Complex in southern Colorado which is a “confine/control” fire is also becoming a major smoke contributor, and could continue to maintain that status for weeks or months.