Category Archives: Fire Information and Status

“Era of Megafires” presentation, April 25, 6:00pm

Era of Megfires poster
Era of Megfires poster

From the official press release . . .

Wildfire plays an important and integral role in our forested ecosystems. Local fire history records show that our forests have evolved with fire for thousands of years. We have successfully suppressed 98% of wildfires in the greater Flathead Area since approximately 1930, and the resulting accumulation of fuel creates an environment conducive to large fire growth. It’s important for our community to understand wildfire and promote a proactive approach to mitigating impacts to our communities; private property, airshed, watersheds and forest ecosystems.

On April 25th, the community is invited to a public event and conversation at the Flathead Valley Community College, Arts and Technology Building Room 139 at 6:00 p.m., for an “Era of Megafires” presentation. This 70-minute multi-media traveling presentation by Dr. Paul Hessburg, will help our community understand the issues surrounding Megafires, so collectively we can move toward solutions that can change the way we receive wildfire and related smoke. Dr. Hessburg has conducted fire and landscape ecology research for more than 27 years.

The “Era of Megafires” presentation will be followed by a question and answer session around topics that are relevant to the community in order to identify local challenges and local actions. Typically, different communities face different obstacles when it comes to wildfire preparedness and resilience.

The intent of this presentation is to significantly reduce the amount of loss we are experiencing by developing a collective understanding of fire, approaches to wildfire management, and how landowners can engage.

The “Era of Megafires” is brought to you by Flathead Area FireSafe Council, Northern Rockies Fire Science Network; Southwestern Crown Collaborative, Montana DNRC/Kalispell Unit; Flathead National Forest, Flathead Valley Community College and FireSafe Montana. For more information, contact Mike West, Flathead National Forest at 758-3939, or Ali Ulwelling, MT DNRC at 751-2270.

Humans leading cause of US wildfires

Ten wildfires burn over 200,000 acres in Southern California, Oct 2003 - MODIS image, NASA
Ten wildfires burn over 200,000 acres in Southern California, Oct 2003 – MODIS image, NASA

Nationwide, the latest research claims 84% of wildfires are human-caused . . .

Wildfires can start when lightning strikes or when someone fails to put out a campfire. New research shows that people start a lot more fires than lightning does — so much so that people are drastically altering wildfire in America.

Fire ecologist Melissa Forder says about 60 percent of fires in national parks are caused by humans: “intentionally set fires, buildings burning and spreading into the forest, smoking, equipment malfunctions and campfires.”

But the average for all forests is even higher. The latest research shows that nationwide, humans cause more than 8 in 10 — 84 percent.

Read more . . .

Additional reading:
Humans sparked 84 percent of US wildfires, increased fire season over two decades (Science Daily)
Human-started wildfires expand the fire niche across the United States (original publication in PNAS)

Prescribed fires planned for the Flathead

From the official press release . . .

Ranger Districts on the Flathead National Forest are planning to conduct multiple fall season prescribed fire projects, when weather, fuel conditions, and air quality is favorable. Burning is expected to start as early as September 16, and will continue through the close of open burning season on November 30, 2015. Smoke will be visible from various places in the Flathead Valley depending on the location of the burn units and weather conditions.

Each project follows a Prescribed Fire Burn Plan. The prescribed fire projects are located, designed and controlled to reduce the potential for adverse effects or escape as a wildland fire. These projects will be in compliance with Montana air quality standards and coordinated with Montana State Department of Environmental Quality to reduce the impacts of smoke to our neighbors, cooperators, and surrounding communities. The project areas include:
Hungry Horse/Glacier View Ranger Districts

  • Red Whale Creek Area – A 1114 acre project is planned in the Red Whale Creek drainage in the North Fork of the Flathead about four miles north of Polebridge. Depending on weather, this burn is planned for the next few weeks. The purpose of the project is to help restore a more historical fire regime to the ecosystem, improve wildlife habitat and reduce hazardous fuels to reduce wildfire risk and aid in potential future fire suppression efforts. In the same area about 31 acres of piles from logging slash will be burned.
  • Heinrude Fuels Project – This work involves burning about 22 acres of debris piles adjacent to Heinrude Creek and the West-side Hungry Horse Reservoir road near the Heinrude cabins.
  • Belton Fuels Project – This project includes the burning of about 15 acres of debris piles adjacent to private property in West Glacier and 176 acres of scattered debris piles between Coram and West Glacier.
  • Essex Area – Work involves the burning of several debris piles and logging slash in the Essex area.
  • Slippery Bill – Work involves the burning of several debris piles and logging slash.
  • Firefighter – Work involves the burning of several debris piles and logging slash.

Tally Lake Ranger District

  • Beaver Lake North Fuels Reduction Project – This project involves the burning of about 5 acres of debris piles adjacent to private property about five miles west of Whitefish.
  • Valley Face Fuels Reduction Project – Work involves the burning of about 69 acres of debris piles adjacent to private property about eight miles southwest of Whitefish along the Tally Lake Road.
  • Ashley Communications Site Project – Work involves the burning of about 4 acres of hand piles around the communications site.
  • Logan 200 Project – Work involves the burning of about 180 acres of hand piles at the north end of Tally Lake east of the campground.
  • Sharptail Project – Work involves the burning of about 17 acres of mechanical piles just off the Star Meadows road.
  • Ashley Lake Project – Work involves the burning of 76 acres of mechanical piles west of Ashley Lake.
  • Herrig Creek Project – Work involves the burning of 95 acres of mechanical piles 2.5 miles north of Little Bitterroot Lake.

Spotted Bear Ranger District

  • Horse Ridge – This project includes burning units along the ridge to the east the East Side Road and north of Spotted Bear complex.
  • Miscellaneous Piles – Piles around the district from a variety of projects will be burned.

Swan Lake Ranger District

  • Wild Cramer – This project includes broadcast and under burning in stands located within the Blacktail Mountain area west of Lakeside, MT. These treatments will use prescribed fire for fuels reduction, vegetation regeneration, and wildlife habitat improvement.
  • Condon Fuels – This project includes broadcast burning in timber stands located within the Condon Fuels project area around Condon, MT in the Swan Valley. These treatments will use prescribed fire for fuels reduction, vegetation regeneration, and wildlife habitat improvement.
  • Pile Burning – Hand or machine piles are located in several locations within the Swan Valley, Blacktail Mountain, Haskill Mountain and miscellaneous piles around the district as a result of but not limited to: logging, hazardous fuels reduction in the wildland urban interface, hazard tree removal, recreation site management and trail or road construction. These piles are burned to reduce fuel loads in these areas. These piles are strategically burned based on their location, access, and weather conditions.

For more information about these projects contact the appropriate Ranger Station:

  • Hungry Horse/Glacier View Ranger Districts: 406/387-3800
  • Tally Lake Ranger District: 406/758-5204
  • Spotted Bear Ranger District: 406-758-5376
  • Swan Lake Ranger District: 406/837-7500

Storm system sparked fires across valley; Coal Ridge Fire out

The Copper King Fire makes its initial run on Sunday, July 31, 2016
The Copper King Fire makes its initial run on Sunday, July 31, 2016

Locally, the Coal Ridge Fire, a small, 0.2 acre blaze on the south face of Coal Ridge about 6 miles southwest of Polebridge, was declared out yesterday afternoon.

The Flathead Beacon has a good summary of other fires in the Flathead Valley . . .

The storm system that passed through the Flathead Valley earlier this week sparked several new wildfires on the Flathead National Forest in the Swan Lake Ranger District, the agency announced.

Smoke has been visible this week throughout the valley due to the Copper King Fire, which has burned 27,788 acres near Thompson Falls. More than 838 personnel are battling the blaze.

The Cold Lake fire is on the ridge just south of Lower Cold Lake and is approximately 10 acres in size, in sub-alpine fir, and has several small spot fires. There are seven smoke jumpers and a 21-person initial attack crew assigned to the fire. A Type 1 helicopter and a Type 3 helicopter were conducting bucket work to help suppression efforts.

Read more . . .

Coal Ridge Fire ‘controlled’

Coal Ridge - remains of old lookout - W. K. Walker
Coal Ridge – remains of old lookout – W. K. Walker

According to a recent report, the Coal Ridge Fire is now “controlled.” It is located 6 miles southwest of Polebridge (or 1.5 miles ESE of the location pictured above), high up on the south face of the ridge above Coal Creek Road.

The 0.2 acre blaze was spotted late Tuesday afternoon. Fire personnel dropped on it the next day.

Today’s smoke from Copper King Fire near Thompson Falls

The Copper King Fire makes its initial run on Sunday, July 31, 2016
The Copper King Fire makes its initial run on Sunday, July 31, 2016

All that smoke in the North Fork today is from the Copper King Fire near Thompson Falls in the Lolo National Forest. The blaze has been burning in high, rugged terrain for better than three weeks. Dry, windy conditions added several hundred acres to the fire since yesterday (it’s now at 6908 acres officially) and brought some of the smoke up here.

For more information, monitor the Copper King Fire Inciweb page.

Heavy snow finishes off Elk Hill Fire

Fire engines at Elk Hill Fire, April 13, 2016 - USFS photo
Fire engines at Elk Hill Fire, April 13, 2016 – USFS photo

Stick a fork in it. It’s done. Some 10 inches of snow last Thursday night and Friday helped finish off the 1086-acre Elk Hill Fire in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

As of Friday afternoon, there were 20 people still assigned to the blaze, down from a peak of 50. The fire is 100% contained. All area trails are reopened.

The total cost for putting out someone’s neglected campfire was around $575,000.

It’s spring: Glacier Park announces prescribed burns in North Fork

Another sign of spring: Glacier Park announces a couple of prescribed burns in the North Fork . . .

If you see smoke emanating from the North Fork in Glacier National Park in the next few weeks, there’s a good chance it’s part of a couple of planned burns for the area.

Two prescribed fire projects are planned along the Inside North Fork Road area of Glacier National Park in the next month, depending on weather and fuel conditions, according to a press release.

National Park Service (NPS) fire crews plan to burn 100 acres in the vicinity of Sullivan Meadow, approximately two miles east of Logging Ranger Station. The primary objectives of the burn are to reduce the number of understory trees serving as “ladders for fire” underneath mature ponderosa pine; to thin out trees that established after the 1999 Anaconda Fire and the 2001 Moose Fire; and to expose mineral soil to provide a seed bed for natural ponderosa pine regeneration.

Read more . . .

Elk Hill Fire shows little growth

Fire engines at Elk Hill Fire, April 13, 2016 - USFS photo
Fire engines at Elk Hill Fire, April 13, 2016 – USFS photo

Firefighting personnel continue dealing with the Elk Hill Fire, a 1068-acre blaze burning in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The fire is 60% contained and continues to burn with its existing perimeter. According to the InciWeb site, “Suppression efforts will continue on the north and east edges of the fire.”

Check the fire’s InciWeb site for additional information and updates.

See also: “Fire shows little growth; new team takes over” (Daily Inter Lake)

Elk Hill Fire 60% contained; more progress expected today

Elk Hill Fire, aerial view. April 10, 2016 - USFS photo
Elk Hill Fire, aerial view. April 10, 2016 – USFS photo

Firefighting personnel continue dealing with the Elk Hill Fire, a 1068-acre blaze burning in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The fire is now 60% contained, with further progress expected today.

Some 45 people are assigned to the effort. Three helicopters are making water drops. A Type 2 team started work yesterday.

According to the InciWeb site, “Fire personnel will remain working on the north edge in the heavier dead and down fuel (within the 2005 fire’s burned area), while the Type-2 fire crew will move to the east-side of the fire today, after making progress yesterday on the south edge.”

Check the fire’s InciWeb site for additional information and updates.