Here’s the somewhat tardy morning update for the Thompson-Divide Complex fires.
The big news is the Sheep Fire, which continues edging towards Essex (see map below). Essex is under a mandatory evacuation order and US Route 2 is closed in the immediate vicinity . . .
Fire Information: (406) 387-4854/ (406) 314-1669, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Evacuation and Highway Closure Information: Flathead County EOC, 406-758-2111, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
Resources – Total Personnel: 332 Injuries: 1 Structures Lost: None
20-Person Hand Crews: One Type 1 and Four Type 2, 1 Wildland Fire Management Module (8), 1 Helitack Crew (10)
Air Support: Helicopters (2 Type-1 & 2 Type-3), Engines: 17 Heavy Equipment: 15
The Thompson-Divide Complex is comprised of the Sheep and Granite Fires on the Flathead National Forest and the Thompson Fire in Glacier National Park. The Sheep fire is the incident priority as it is approaching US Hwy. 2 and the BNSF railway and is threatening the community of Essex.
On August 27, Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry ordered a mandatory evacuation of Essex and the surrounding area because of increased activity on the Sheep Fire. For more information on the evacuation, call the Flathead County Office of Emergency Services at 406-758-2111. The American Red Cross has established an evacuation center at West Glacier Elementary School at 160 Old Bridge Rd (800-272-6668).
Highway 2 is closed between mileposts 176.8 at Schellinger and 185 at Bear Creek. BNSF trains and Amtrak are running intermittently. Call 511 or visit http://www.mdt.mt.gov/travinfo/alerts.shtml for current road status. For more information on Amtrak call 1-(800) 872-7245.
Stage II Fire Restrictions are in effect for northwestern Montana.
Visit http://svc.mt.gov/deq/todaysair/ for air quality info.
Closures are in effect for some trails in the vicinity of the fires for Glacier National Park and Flathead National Forest. For more info, please see the Glacier NP page http://www.nps.gov/glac/upload/8-22-15-closures-web.pdf or for Flathead NF call Hungry Horse Ranger District (406) 387-3800. The area closures around the Granite and Sheep Fires in the Great Bear Wilderness were expanded today by the Hungry Horse Ranger District. The order and map are posted at http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/article/4468/28364/.
A Red Flag Warning has been issued for Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. for gusty winds and low humidity. The fires may see wind gusts in excess of 40 mph on ridge tops. Wind direction will start from the south and southeast, then come from the southwest and west with passage of a cold front. These conditions could cause active fire behavior including short crown runs and spotting up to ½ mile on all three fires in the complex. Weather conditions will be changing this weekend. A cold front is predicted to arrive late Saturday afternoon. Humidity will increase with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms as this front passes through the area. On Sunday, temperatures will drop about 10 degrees and humidity increase. A chance for showers will remain.
Sheep Fire, Flathead National Forest
Structures At Risk: 200+ structures, BNSF has several wooden snowsheds and 1 trestle, utilities infrastructure
Approximate Size: 1,595 acres Containment: 0% Structures Lost: None
Fire Update: The Sheep Fire is on the Flathead National Forest and burning in very steep terrain with limited access. The fire is about 1 mile south of Essex and about 1/8 mile from the train tracks between Tank Creek and MacDonald Creek. The fire has not crossed Sheep Creek to the south. Today, fire behavior will depend on the influence of the approaching cold front and the persistence of smoke over the fire. Construction of the shaded fuel break around Essex is nearing completion. Today’s focus will be on the removal of the remaining logs and slash that was created and any cleanup of the fuel break. The objective of this fuel break is to reduce the fuel component and space the tree crowns to limit fire spread and torching. It will also provide a safe location for firefighters if it is decided to burn out fuels in advance of the fire front. Helicopters will be used to drop water on the fire to reduce fire spread as long as visibility requirements can be met. Structural protection in Essex will continue. Night shift continues to monitor fire movement and patrol the Essex area and Walton compound for any encroaching fire activity.
Granite Fire, Flathead National Forest
Approximate Size: 701 acres Containment: 0%
Fire Update: The Granite Fire is burning in very steep terrain in a mixed conifer forest. The fire is located west of Marias Pass and south of Hwy. 2. The fire started in the Great Bear Wilderness and has moved north out of the Wilderness. Yesterday, the fire moved to the west along a ridge between 2 unnamed tributaries of Granite Creek and northwest toward Patrol Ridge. A crew was flown into the Granite Cabin to put in structure protection measures, including wrapping and sprinkler placement. Crews have implemented structural protection measures on other facilities in the fire’s vicinity. Crews have established locations for fireline construction and possible shaded fuel break opportunities when sufficient crews become available for their construction. Helicopter bucket drops are being used to help check fire spread.
Thompson Fire, Glacier National Park
Approximate Size: 17,857 acres Containment: 20%
Structures At Risk: 2 historic cabins Structures Lost: None
Fire Update: The Thompson Fire is located in remote south-central backcountry of Glacier National Park about 15 miles east of the West Glacier entrance in the Thompson and Nyack drainages west of the Continental Divide. All fire personnel have been removed from this fire. It will be monitored from the air for any increased fire activity. Pumps and hose lays are in place in case a future need arises.
Most of Glacier National Park is unaffected by this wildfire complex and is available for recreational use. Limited backcountry closures are in place. For more specific visitor information, please see the website http://www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm.
The Thompson Fire has not impacted park roads. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is open.
For information on the Reynolds Creek fire, please visit http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4405/#