Fire crews continue battling Horsefly fire near Helena

Terrain, dead trees making Horsefly fire dangerous
Posted at 9:09 PM, Aug 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-06 23:12:42-04

The Horsefly Fire, which started around 1:30 p.m. Monday, roughly eight miles east of Lincoln, has burned 500 acres of land in a matter of minutes.

The fire is burning rapidly behind the Black Diamond fire near Flesher Pass, but the damage hasn't stopped there.

Fire crews are continuing their efforts to suppress and limit the spread the Horsefly fire just outside of Lincoln.

The fire has already forced evacuations for more than 20 homes in Flesher, as well as closing the Continental Divide Trail and closing Flesher Pass to cyclists.

“Big concern right now is people that are traveling on Flesher and hindering crews as their trying to move in and out of there, so we are really asking people to avoid Flesher Pass if they can," Jeni Garcin, public information officer for Incident Management, said.

“We are directing the bicyclists that typically go over the pass. Really important that they stay out of the way--there's so many crews, fire crews engines going through there, that safety to the public and our crews is a huge concern right now,” she added.

Tuesday’s efforts utilized air resources, including airtankers and helicopters.

Ground crews were working on a way to find access to the fire, but the terrain and forest health has proven difficult.

Many trees have died as a result from beetle kill, which causes the wood to become dry and brittle. It poses a significant threat to firefighters.

“Over the past years, that dead-standing has started to fall to the ground and creates quite a bit of field load," said Lincoln District Ranger Michael Stansberry. "Especially on the ground so when a fire moves through, not only does it have the opportunity to reach those big logs, and create a lot of momentum, with that but it also reaches up into the dead trees that still standing and we get what are called 'crown fires' that move really fast because they get picked up by the wind.”

There is concern that firefighting efforts could be hindered by the expected weather forecast.