GREAT FALLS — Here are updates on several large fires that are burning south of Great Falls and east of Helena.
American Fork Fire:
- Acreage: 14,397; Containment: 10%; Start date: July 17; Cause: Lightning; Personnel Assigned: 181
- The American Fork fire is burning northeast of the Crazy Mountains, about 24 miles southwest of Harlowton. The fire was active in the south and west sections with some spotting north of the Shields River Road. In the Shields River drainage fire moved down timber stringers into more open areas, but overall growth was minimal. The fire moved southeast of the Crandall Cabin, triggering the Meagher County Sherriff’s office to issue a mandatory evacuation of the Smith Creek subdivision. Firefighters are protecting structures in the area and will continue to work overnight to protect them. They are working on structure protection in the Harley Creek drainage in the event that the fire spreads to the southeast. The 2017 Blacktail Fire footprint should temper fire progression to the north. Firefighters will fight the fire directly as necessary in areas without roads or natural barriers.
Balsinger and Ellis fires (Divide Complex)
- Acreage: Balsinger 8,511 acres; Ellis 1,227 acres; Containment: 26%; Start date: July 8; Cause: Balsinger-Lightning; Ellis–under investigation; Personnel Assigned: 308
- The Balsinger Fire is burning about seven miles west of Neihart, Montana. Fire activity was moderate yesterday with some movement to the north. Firefighters used helicopter water drops effectively to cool hot spots. Today they will work in the Tillinghast Creek/Pilgrim Creek and Monarch Mountain areas and focus on improving line at the northwest side of the fire in advance of southeast winds. They continue to focus on structure preparation and protection in the Tillinghast Creek drainage. Night crews will monitor the fire overnight to protect structures.
- The Ellis Fire, about 2.5 miles southwest of Smith River, Montana, continues to show limited fire activity. This fire is in patrol status with daily monitoring by aircraft and engine patrols.
Woods Creek Fire:
- Acreage: 15,250; Containment: 0%; Start date: July 10; Cause: Lightning; Personnel Assigned: 109
- The Woods Creek fire is in the Big Belt Mountains, about 16 miles northeast of Townsend. Firefighters were able to stop the advance when the fire moved out of timber into open grassy areas near Clear Creek. Firefighters continue to secure this area and are providing structure protection for the Thompson Guard Station, communications equipment, a powerline corridor and structures in the Confederate Gulch area, A mandatory evacuation order issued by the Broadwater County Sheriff’s Office remains in place for the Woods Creek Fire, covering everything east of Highway 284 between Gravely Lane on the north and Dry Gulch Road on the south. Ray Creek is on high alert. Highway 284 remains open at this time.
Harris Mountain Fire:
- Acreage: 27,333; Containment: 18%; Start date: July 23; Cause: Lightning; Personnel Assigned: 319
- The Harris Mountain Fire is about seven to ten miles south of the town of Cascade. The southwest portion of the fire was active well into the early hours of the morning moving farther into Lewis & Clark County. Click here for more details.
More information about these and other wildfires is available on Inciweb.