Written by Dennis Michael Lynch
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The state of Montana is burning. It’s been burning for a while, and yet it’s getting little to no national media coverage.
Keep in mind, I live the news 7-days per week, and I am surrounded by 19 monitor feeds. I look at no less than 1,500 stories each day from 100 or more news sources. Never once have I seen the story of “Montana burning” in a news feed. Had it not been for a DML reader who urged me to bring some attention to the story, I would have never known. That’s how underreported this event is.
According to local station KTVQ, “Four thousand firefighters, 125 aircraft and 350 Montana National Guard troops battled 40 wildfires this summer that scorched 655,171 acres with 23 still actively consuming land statewide.” There are evacuations taking place constantly.
According to InciWeb, the most destructive of these was the Lolo Peak Fire which claimed two lives and burned 39,719 acres.
I’m still getting my hands around this story, but I wanted to get out this information sooner than later, so below is an update I found on a local NBC News station. Read through the list and you’ll see how bad these fires are currently.
THE FOLLOWING UPDATES were published on 9/3 by NBC News KECI
Rice Ridge Fire (Seeley Lake)
Location: 2 miles northeast of Seeley Lake
Size: 52,894 acres
Containment: 18 percent
Structures Threatened: 1090
Mandatory Evacuation Orders:
Area along Forest Service Rd 17507 which runs north into North Cottonwood Canyon was issued due to an immediate fire threat near the Rice Ridge Fire; two cabins have been affected.
Northern Boundary: The junction of Highway 83 and Cedar Lane northeast to Morrell Creek Road. The boundary continues along the Cottonwood Lakes Road east to the Forest Boundary.
Eastern Boundary: Cottonwood Lakes Road at the Forest Boundary and south to the northern boundary of the Double Arrow.
Southern Boundary: The junction of Highway 83 and Whitetail Drive east to the junction of Whitetail Drive and Dolly Varden. The southern boundary continues east to include the area north of the Commons Area and eastward to the intersection of Montana Drive and South Canyon Drive, continuing southeast along Montana Drive to the junction with Glacier Drive and then south to the junction with Double Arrow Road including Pyramid Loop and all areas in the Double Arrow Subdivision to the south and east.
Western Boundary: The junction of Highway 83 and Cedar Lane south to the junction of Highway 83 and Whitetail Drive.
Evacuation Warnings: This current warning area includes both sides of Highway 83 N. from Tamarack Resort to Bear Grass, extending to Bear Grass Ln, Loon Lane and Camp Creek. Also under an evacuation warning are residents on both the north and south sides of Boy Scout Rd. to the Fawn Creek intersection.
Kozy Korner Meadows area. Eastern boundary starts in the 7500 block of Woodworth Road and runs west to Cottonwood Lakes Road, then north through the Rich Ranch. There are 15 homes in the warning area. This also includes the Black Canyon Ranch which is the only property located on the south side of Woodworth Road in the warning area.
The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office has issued an evacuation WARNING for the Big Sky and Emerald Lake areas: This evacuation WARNING includes all properties from the intersection of Woodworth Road and Highway 83, East to Skilly Drive, and all properties north of Woodworth Road.
Red Cross shelter site located at the UCC Church, 405 University Avenue, Missoula MT.
Fire information booths will be staffed at the Valley Market, Seeley Airport and Rovero’s Hardware Store on Highway 83 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Closures: A closure order is still in effect for the areas surrounding the Rice Ridge Fire. All Seeley Lake waters are closed. Big Larch campground is still closed.
Lolo Peak Fire (Lolo)
Location: 10 miles southwest of Lolo
Size: 42,687 acres
Containment: 31 percent
Structures threatened: 540
Structures destroyed: 2 homes, 6 outbuildings
Fire Information Locations: Staffed fire information is available in three locations: Super 1 Foods in Stevensville; Farmers State Bank in Florence; and the weigh station in Lolo at the corner of Highways 12 and 93.
Evacuations and Warnings: The evacuation warning status was lifted for residents living in certain sections of the highway 12 and 93 corridors. This includes the Highway 12 corridor from mile marker 24 near and including Arena Drive to the Highway 93 junction in Lolo. In the Highway 93 corridor, the evacuation warning was lifted for residents starting at mile marker 79 near and including the Gravel Pit off of Old Highway 93 and the McClain Creek Road north to the Highway 12 junction. The evacuation warning remains in place in the Bear Creek and Elk Creek areas on Highway 12 east of Lolo and in the Highway 93 corridor from McClain Creek Road south to Bass Creek Road. There are no evacuation orders at this time, but this could change based on fire behavior.
45 mph speed limit through the fire area – HIGHWAYS ARE OPEN.
Returning Home: Residents may see changes to their property as a result of firefighting operations. Check your property for damage to your well/pump, electric/gas meter, propane tank and for fire-weakened trees.
Stage II Fire Restrictions are in effect for Missoula and Ravalli Counties and across the Lolo and Bitterroot National Forests. Additional information can be found on Inciweb.
Missoula County residents can receive emergency notifications of critical alerts via their choice of text, phone and/or email by signing up at Smart911.com.
Nelson Creek Fire (Bitterroot)
Location: 3 miles west of the West Fork Ranger District
Size: 270 acres
Containment: 30 percent
Evacuations: Residents on Nez Perce Road evacuated due to the Nelson Creek Fire can return home under a warning status. Residents should remain prepared to evacuate due to critical fire behavior.
Structures: None threatening to any structures.
Sheep Gap Fire (Plains)
Location: 9 miles northwest of Plains
Size: 4,668 acres
Containment: zero percent
In coordination with the U.S. Forest Service and Office of Emergency Management, the Sanders County Sheriff’s Office and Sanders County Search & Rescue are issuing PRE-EVACUATION notices to a portion of River Road West residents.
The affected area is from the River Road West / Arnold Road intersection to the West end of River Road West.
No residents have been evacuated at this time.
Deep Creek Fire
Location: near Plains
Size: over 500 acres
Gibralter Ridge Fire (Eureka)
Location: East of Eureka
Size: 6,785 acres
Containment: 27 percent
Structures threatened: 144
Evacuations: The Lincoln County Sheriff and the IMT evaluate the need for evacuations on a daily basis. A Pre-Evacuation Warning remains in effect for the Sherman Creek, Griffith Creek, Therriault Pass Road, Stevens Creek, Glen Lake and Sinclair Creek (south/east of West Road) areas.
Road Closure: Grave Creek Road and the Ten Lakes Recreation area are closed above the Grave Creek/Foothills Road junction.
Location: 21 miles northwest of Eureka
Size: 13,767 acres
Containment: 0 percent
Structures: unknown number destroyed
Located on the Three Rivers and Rexford Ranger Districts of the Kootenai National Forest, and has crossed into Canada.
Closures: Basin Yaak Road to Dodge Summit including Caribou Creek Campground are closed.
Evacuations: the Lincoln County Sheriff has issued a pre-evacuation warning for all zones in the West Kootenai area. There is a good probability of a need to evacuate. It is recommended to move any people requiring extraordinary care, large mobile property, and livestock (if feasible and deemed necessary).
Alice Creek Fire
Location: near Lincoln, MT
Size: 11,593 acres
Containment: 5 percent
Evacuations: The Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s office has issues mandatory evacuation notices for residents in the Evergreen Subdivision (Elk Meadows subdivision) and ranches west of Road 434/435 north of Highway 200 due to fire growth.
Due to a growing threat from the Alice Creek Fire, the Sheriff of Lewis and Clark County has issued additional mandatory evacuations orders tonight. Residents on both sides of Highway 200, south of Highway 434, from mile marker 92 through mile marker 100, extending east to the south fork of the Dearborn River are under mandatory evacuations. For safety, affected residents are being asked to vacate their property as soon as practical. A Red Cross shelter is being set up at the Wolf Creek School located at 150 Walsh Street. Questions concerning the evacuations can be directed to the public information officer at 208-991-0067.
Due to the fire activity, an area closure is in-place that affects multiple trails and roads. A trail re-route is established for hikers along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail.
Sunrise Fire (Superior)
Location: 11 miles southeast of Superior
Size: 25,975 acres
Containment: 90 percent
Evacuations: Residents of the Cougar Creek and Quartz Creek areas have been allowed to return to their homes as of September 1st at 8 p.m. Trout Creek road remains open but please use reduced speed and do not stop on the roadway as heavy traffic from firefighter operations may still be present. A Forest Service area closure remains in place for the areas immediately adjacent to Trout Creek road, near the fire area.
The Red Cross is prepared to provide shelter at Superior High School for evacuees.
Sapphire Complex Fire (Rock Creek)
Location: 25 miles southeast of Missoula
Size: 40,658 acres
Containment: 53 percent
Evacuations: 3 structures in the lower end of Capron Creek, near mile marker 33 on Rock Creek Road remain in Level Red- Evacuation Status. Many homes and communities are still potentially threatened by the fires within the Sapphire Complex, and as a result “Yellow” Pre-evacuation status for those areas also remain in effect. See Inciweb maps and evacuation alerts for details.
Structures Threatened: Private property and structures in the Rock Creek, Upper Willow Creek, and Marshall Creek drainages remain threatened. Other resources threatened include fisheries in Rock Creek, grazing lands along the southern boundary of the Little Hogback Fire, Bonneville Power Administration powerline, and a communication site.
Structures Destroyed: 1 cabin, 14 outbuildings.
Due to fire activity on the Little Hogback Fire (part of the Sapphire Complex), as well as predicted weather, the Granite County Sheriff issued a Level Red- Evacuation Order for some residences along Rock Creek Road, effective, Saturday, September 2, at 10:00 p.m. The Level Red- Evacuation Order was issued to residences along both sides of Upper Rock Creek Road and adjacent roads/neighborhoods, beginning from and including Wild Rose Loop south to Stony Creek. Approximately thirty-five residences will be impacted by the Level Red- Evacuation order. See press release or the Granite County Sheriff’s Office for full details.
Closures: The Rock Creek Road from I-90 south to Bitterroot Campground (MP 23.5) is OPEN. Due to fire traffic congestion and fire safety concerns, the Rock Creek Road will continue to be CLOSED from Bitterroot Campground, south to Cornish Gulch (FSR5027), and public traffic is NOT allowed. Upper Willow Creek Road is currently closed to the public. The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest has reduced closure restrictions in the Black Pine ridge area, but maintains all area closures in the Upper Willow Creek, North Fork Lower Willow Creek, and Harvey Creek areas. The Bureau of Land Management has implemented an area closure in the Upper Willow Creek, Ram Mountain, and nearby areas.
Fire Restrictions: Stage 1 Fire Restrictions are in place on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest (Forest Service land east of Sandstone Ridge). Stage 2 Fire Restrictions are in place on BLM, private and state lands in Granite County, and the Lolo National Forest (Forest Service land west of Sandstone Ridge).
Meyers Fire (Philipsburg)
Location: 25 miles southwest of Philipsburg
Size: 37,649 acres
Containment: 5 percent
Structures threatened: 119
The Montana National Guard have been to deployed to help with fighting the Meyers Fire, located 25 miles southwest of Philipsburg.The soldiers are staffing five security checkpoints around the fire area to free law enforcement personnel for other duties.
Evacuations and Closures: The Frog Pond area is under an evacuation order. Moose Lake residents are under an evacuation warning. Additionally, an evacuation warning is in effect on East Fork Rd from FS Rd 5778 to Little East Fork Rd (FS RD 724) on the Bitterroot National Forest.
Bitterroot National Forest emergency closure orders are in effect for upper areas of the East Fork Bitterroot River. Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest emergency closure orders are in effect around the fire area. The closure of Forest Roads 893, 8684 and 8685 was rescinded at 6:00AM Friday, September 1, 2017. A temporary flight restriction (TFR) is in effect surrounding the Meyers Fire area. Granite County is under Stage 2 fire restrictions for private lands in the county. Amended Stage 1 fire restrictions are going into effect Saturday which prohibit ALL campfires in southwestern Montana, including in fire rings and developed recreation areas.
Sprague Fire (Glacier National Park)
Location: 9 miles northeast of West Glacier, MT
Size: 5,116 acres
Containment: zero containment
Structure: Thursday afternoon at approximately 6 p.m., the main building at the Sperry Chalet was lost to the Sprague Fire. A highly skilled group of firefighters were staged at the Sperry Chalet over the last week. Those firefighters had an extensive hose lay, sprinkler, and pump system installed to protect all of the structures associated with the Chalet. The high winds experienced Thursday afternoon pushed the fire to the north and east. The firefighters were supported by 4 helicopters and made a valiant stand to save the structure. They were unsuccessful in saving the main Sperry Chalet. The firefighters remain on site, ARE SAFE, and are actively engaged in protecting the remaining structures.
Closures: The Going-to-the-Sun Road remains open. The Avalanche Lake Trail and Lake Area is closed due to fire activity. The Sprague, Snyder, and Lincoln Creek drainages and associated trails, from Lake McDonald Trailhead on the west and Gunsight Pass on the east, are also closed to all use. Visit http://go.nps.gov/glacconditions for trail, road, and campground information.
Evacuations: Today, Glacier National Park Rangers are issuing an Evacuation Warning for the south end of Lake McDonald north to Logan Pass. This warning includes North McDonald Road. This warning DOES NOT include the Apgar area. The Going-to-the-Sun Road will remain OPEN. Trails and campgrounds in the area will be closed on Sunday. See 9/2/17 Update for specific information.
Liberty Fire (Arlee)
Location: 17 miles southeast of Arlee
Size: 16,788 acres
Containment: 22 percent
No evacuation warnings or orders are in effect at this time.
Blue Bay Fire
Location: Blue Bay, Flathead Lake
Size: 490 acres
Containment: 80 percent
Location: 7 miles northeast of Whitehall
Size: 2,727 acres
Containment : 95 percent
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