HELENA — The Southern Area Incident Management Red Team took over command of four fires burning in central Montana Saturday morning.
The team is now in charge of the two fires that make up the Divide Complex, as well as the American Fork Fire and the Woods Creek Fire.
The team took command ahead of a busy day on the American Fork Fire. Just before 5:30 p.m. the Meagher County Sheriff ordered the evacuation of the Smith Creek Subdivision citing extreme fire behavior. As of Saturday morning the lightning-caused fire had burned nearly 14,400 acres. The fire is located about 24 southwest of Harlowton in the Crazy Mountains.
The team took over after an active night on the Woods Creek Fire that pushed the blaze past 15,000 acres. Late Friday and early Saturday morning winds pushed the Woods Creek to the northwest. Aerial support helped protect a historic ranger station and radio repeater. Officials say fire crews were able to stop the fire's advance as it moved out of timber and into more open terrain.
The Woods Creek Fire is located about 16 miles north of Townsend between Canyon Ferry Reservoir and the Smith River.
Previously ordered evacuations around the fire remain in place. However, Highway 284 has been reopened after it was closed Friday night.
The two fires that make up the Divide Complex, the Balsinger and the Ellis saw moderate and limited activity on Friday. Firefighters completed some tactical burning and helicopter water drops were able to cool hot spots on the Balsinger Fire.
The Balsinger Fire has burned 8,500 acres, the Ellis Fire has burned around 1,200 acres.
Fire managers are reminding people that as of July 30th all of the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest is under stage two fire restrictions.