BILLINGS - Fire crews boosted their efforts on Saturday along fire lines to prepare for warmer weather on Sunday that could drive the blazes farther.
As of Saturday evening, Ashland Fire Complex officials reported that all power has been restored to Ashland and Broadu, although some residents in the outlying areas may still be waiting for power to their homes.
The Ash Creek Fire has scorched more than 156,000 acres. Saturday, an additional 100 firefighters were sent to the fire line to strengthenen and secure firelines along the perimeter of the Ash Creek Fire. . A majority of the activity, which included group tree torching, was within the interior of the fire. The fire is still threatening residences in the Wilbur, Whitetail, Beaver Creek and East Fork of Otter Creek areas, all of which remain evacuated. Fire remains south of Beaver Creek, west of the Beaver Creek Road and north of Highway 212.
A nightshift will continue suppression efforts on the fire Saturday night to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and relative humidity level recovery to help further secure dozer and firelines prior to the onset of tomorrow's fire weather forecast. There is a Red Flag Warning for Sunday due to the hot temperatures at about 106 degrees, low relative humidity levels and increased winds that are predicted to switch directions throughout the day.
Fire activity remains moderate on the Coal Seam fire and is in mop up and patrol status. Fire crews will continue suppression tactics when appropriate, mop-up and patrol. This fire is 80 percent contained.
Now to the Dahl fire near Roundup, crews are increasing efforts to prepare for unseasonably warm weather and high winds. So far the fire has burned more than 22,000 acres and is 65 percent contained.
Smoke was visible in several locations within the fire perimeter Saturday as firefighters continued line construction and mop-up. Firefighters attacked three hot areas along the northern line, and the night crew will continue to focus work toward cooling off these specific areas close to the fire line.
Aircraft assigned to the Dahl Fire Saturday were used mainly to support suppression and initial attack efforts on other fires.
Because of the weather forecast, a rapid response fire group has been created to respond immediately to any spot fires that may occur outside of the fire line. A separate initial attack group will be available for any new lightning fires.
The evacuation order was reduced to voluntary compliance yesterday and will remain in effect until further notice. Residents have been allowed back into the evacuation area at their own risk but are under a one hour evacuation notice in the event that fire activity increases and poses a threat to their safety.
The speed limit on US HWY 87 is 35 mph. Drivers are not allowed to stop or pull over. Only residents and firefighters are allowed on the side roads.
About 30 National Guard soldiers were expected to arrive Saturday and help the county with road access control.
Stay with Q2 for more on the fires.