GREAT FALLS — The Pine Grove Fire on the Fort Belknap Reservation and in Blaine and Phillips counties has burned an estimated 17,325 acres and is 19% contained as of Friday morning (August 20, 2021). There are 173 personnel assigned to the fire. There have been no serious injuries reported. The cause of the fire, which sparked on Monday, August 16, is still being investigated. Structure loss assessments are underway.
The Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation said in a news release on Friday that rain fell over the fire on Thursday, aiding firefighting efforts. Crews were able to access some difficult to reach areas of the fire to assess, plan, and map. Crews worked hard to take advantage of less intense fire conditions to construct line as close to the fire perimeter as possible.
On Friday, will continue to take advantage of the weather to shore up mechanical line and dig hand line. Crews will be joined by two arriving Hot Shot and three 20-person hand crews to focus on the east and southern flanks of the fire from just south of Lodge Pole around to the Zortman and Landusky mines, as well as the Mission Ridge area.
The DNRC says that while the rain has done a lot of good, things will dry out later and small areas burning interior of the fire perimeter will likely still be present and may pose a future threat. Work done this weekend will help prepare for that possibility. Crews continue to work with tribal cultural specialists to make sure that culturally important sites are protected.
Evacuations & Closures: There are Evacuations Warnings in the communities of Zortman, Landusky, Pine Grove, Star Hill and Lodgepole. Residents may return to their homes but are requested to be in a Ready State to Evacuate if fire conditions deteriorate. The Mission Canyon, White Cow Canyon and Coming Day roads and the roads going to Camp Creek Campground and Wiccum Cabin remain closed. Red Cross Evacuation Shelters have closed.