GREAT FALLS — Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest provided an update on Tuesday morning on several large fires.
The American Fork Fire is estimated at 8,379 acres, and is about 10% contained. Yesterday, the fire was reported to be 12,366 acres; the lower number reflects more accurate mapping.
The Balsinger Fire is about 6,722 acres with no containment. The Ellis Fire is estimated at 1,277 acres, with 70% containment. The Balsinger and Ellis fires are being co-managed as the Divide Complex Fire.
The Divide Complex has 165 personnel assigned, along with aircraft, engines, dozers and water tenders. The American Fork Fire has 183 personnel assigned, including engines, a dozer and a water tender. Private rancher dozers are also supporting the suppression efforts.
As of Tuesday morning, there have been no reports of any injuries or damaged/destroyed structures.
- An evacuation order for Belt Park, issued by the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office, remains in place.
- A pre-evacuation order was issued for the area from the Belt Creek Ranger Station to Monarch and from west of Monarch to the confluence of Pilgrim Creek and Belt Creek. Pre-evacuation means that people in the affected area should prepare to evacuate if the need arises. Preparing means that you should have a "go bag" ready containing necessary items.
There are two other large fires in our area. The Harris Mountain Fire has burned an estimated 19,103 acres as of Tuesday morning, growing by more than 7,000 acres since Monday. The Woods Creek Fire near Boulder Lakes in the Big Belt Mountains has burned an estimated 3,700 acres as of Tuesday morning.
The Balsinger Fire exhibited extreme fire behavior on Monday resulting in growth of more than 1,500 acres and long-range spotting. The fire reached the top of Thunder Mountain and started backing down into the field on the other side. Here and at Belt Park Road, where the fire is also pushing into the fields, firefighters successfully caught spot fires. Aviation resources also dropped retardant to help reduce fire’s spread. In the Wilson Creek area, where the fire intensity is high, the fire moved slowly east where firefighters successfully caught spot fires. Critical burning conditions are expected again today. Firefighters will be working on the east and southwest sides of the fire and scouting ahead in the north to prepare for the fire’s possible movement that direction. Structure protection will continue with assistance from local volunteer fire departments.
Patrolling for hot spots and mop up continued on the Ellis Fire yesterday. Firefighters also consolidated piles of debris from suppression efforts. Today they will continue holding and improving containment lines, attacking any hot spots, mopping up and keeping the fire in check.
After a significant run on Sunday, the American Fork Fire continues its movement into the south fork of the American Fork River drainage yesterday. Firefighters worked the fire’s edge as it came out of the river bottom. Strategic firing operations helped push the fire back. Today firefighters will continue suppression operations along the east and southern edges and toward the 2017 Blacktail Fire footprint as conditions allow. Aviation resources will continue to pick up spot fires. Structure protection for areas to the south will continue with support from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and the local fire department.