The Flathead National Forest just released its fall list of 13 prescribed burning projects. Only one, the “Red Whale Landscape” burn, is in the North Fork.
As usual, the entire plan depends on weather conditions, air quality issues and, occasionally, whether or not they can get a fire started in the first place.
Here’s the write-up for our local burn . . .
Red Whale Landscape – Approximately 536 acres will be treated with prescribed burning this fall in Moose creek and Moran creek. This project location is in the North Fork of the Flathead about 4 miles northwest of Polebridge. Depending on weather, this burn is planned for mid to late September or early October. The purpose of this 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.
Lots of familiar faces and places, not to mention some impressive photography . . .
If, on a hot, dry day a fire should break out within a certain 300,000-acre patch of northwest Montana, in an expanse of backcountry between the crest of the Whitefish Range and the glacier-carved peaks that hug the Continental Divide, there’s a good chance Leif Haugen will be the first person on Earth to see it.
For the better part of an hour, he might be the only person.
Mr. Haugen has worked for more than half of his 52 years as a fire lookout, scanning the larch and pine wilderness from a one-room mountaintop cabin. Alone most of the time but for his thoughts, his mutt, Ollie, and the occasional crackle of voices on the radio, he is part of a nationwide band of professional watchers who, like lighthouse keepers, stand on solitary guard between civilization and nature’s uncaring whims.
More and more, he stands at another divide, too: between human jobs and automation. As land managers seek new tools to deal with the threat of catastrophic wildfires, which is rising in the West as the planet warms and Americans build more homes near overgrown forests and other vulnerable places, the days of lookouts might be numbered.
The Evacuation Order issued on August 18, 2023, for all properties North of mile marker 146 on Highway 93 to mile marker 157.9 — Lincoln/Flathead County line, and the Residents of Good Creek Road, and those who access Good Creek west to the Lincoln County line have been downgraded to a PRE-EVACUATION WARNING and will be effective at 02:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 20, 2023.
All PRE-EVACUATION warnings issued on Thursday, August 17, 2023, are still in effect.
Residents may return to their homes under a Pre-Evacuation Warning but may need to leave again on short notice if required. An Evacuation Order may need to be reissued; however, if that is deemed necessary, the Evacuation Order process will re-commence.
Kalispell, MT, August 15, 2023 — Smoke from the Doris Fire is visible from the Flathead Valley this afternoon as fire behavior has increased due to high temperatures and gusty winds. Smoke columns from several fires will be visible throughout this afternoon and evening as hot and dry weather is forecasted to continue into Thursday evening’s Fire Weather Watch.
The Doris Point Fire was lightning-caused and was detected on July 30. It is located on the west side of Hungry Horse Reservoir, within the current area closure. At this time, the fire is in a remote location and is not burning near any homes or private property. Fire managers are continuing to assess the situation and more information will be provided as it becomes available. California Interagency Incident Management Team 4 is taking command of the Doris Point Fire at 6:00 am tomorrow, August 16, in addition to the Ridge Fire. Team 4 took command of the Ridge Fire on August 9.
South of the Doris Point Fire, there is potential to see an increase in activity from the Tin Solider Complex this evening and throughout the rest of the week as warm temperatures persist. The Tin Soldier Complex fires are burning on the West Side of the Hungry Horse Reservoir and South Fork of the Flathead River. The smoke columns from this complex will potentially be visible from the Flathead Valley, south of the current column that can be seen from the Doris Point Fire.
From the latest press release, here’s the status for fires throughout the Flathead National Forest, including links to supplemental material . . .
Kalispell, MT, August 3, 2023 — As hot and dry weather conditions continue, firefighters continue working to contain several fires on the Flathead National Forest. Area closures are now in place for public and firefighter safety associated with the Tin Soldier Complex, the Ridge Fire, and the Stadium Creek Fire. Fire danger is extreme, and Stage II Fire Restrictions will go into effect at 12:01am Saturday, August 5th, 2023.
The Tin Soldier Complex (comprised of the Sullivan, Kah Mountain, and Bruce Fires) is currently estimated at 2,061 acres. Firefighting crews are engaging in point source protection of values at risk, setting up sprinklers and hose and enhancing fuel breaks with heavy equipment around private property and around the Spotted Bear Ranger Station. Fire personnel are conducting initial assessments and preparations for structure protection.
The Con Kelly Mountain Fire, previously included in the Tin Soldier Complex, is now successfully controlled and firefighters will be transported off-site by aircraft.
The Ridge Fire is now estimated at 633 acres. Due to the hot and dry weather conditions, the fire is actively burning on all sides in steep terrain with heavy dead and down fuels with smoke visible from Highway 2 and Hungry Horse, MT. Firefighting crews are working to establish fuel breaks along FS Road 38 and removing combustible materials around the Desert Mountain communication towers. Aerial resources are assisting firefighting efforts by reducing the fire spread.
The Glacier View Fire is human caused, estimated at 3.5 acres. Firefighters have completed containment line and are now working to reduce heat along the edge of the fire perimeter. The interior area of the fire is still producing smoke but poses no threat at this time.
The Doris Point Fire is estimated at 4 acres (growth of 3.5) based on aerial observation on August 3. The fire is burning on 80-90% slope in thick timber and vegetation with prevalent large-diameter dead trees and is not threatening any values at risk.
The Stadium Creek and Alcove Fires are in and just outside of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, respectively, and are not threatening any values at risk.
The East Fork Fire on the Kootenai National Forest is less than a mile from the boundary of the Flathead National Forest, Tally Lake Ranger District. It is currently estimated at 453 acres with very active fire behavior yesterday, including group torching and spotting in heavy timber and subalpine fir. Firefighting crews will continue to construct indirect line and shaded fuel breaks around the fire perimeter with aircraft working to slow fire behavior while equipment establishes an anchor on the fire.
Tin Soldier Complex ClosureOrder 01-10-04-23-13: The closure area encompasses the southern portion of the Hungry Horse Reservoir from the Jewel Basin Hiking Area boundary west of the reservoir to the mountain ridgeline from Prospector Mountain along the Great Bear and Bob Marshall Wilderness boundaries to Inspiration Point in section 4 T23N R16W. The waters of Hungry Horse Reservoir within this boundary are included in the closure area.
All roads and trails within the closure are closed to the public, including two additional trails:
NFS Trail #7 (Alpine 7) from the junction with NFS Trail #10 (Six Mile Trail), south to the Junction with NFS Trail #31(Napa Point Trail).
Spotted Bear River Trail #2 from the Wilderness Boundary to its junction with NFS Trail #173 (Pentagon Creek).
NFS Trail #64 and NFS Road 895F are not part of the closure and remain open.
Ridge Fire ClosureOrder 01-10-04-23-14: The closure area encompasses National Forest System (NFS) Road 497 and NFS Road 38 in section 3 T31N R19W, Emery Creek, the Coram Experimental Forest, Desert Mountain, and continues east to the Great Bear Wilderness boundary.
Stadium Creek ClosureOrder 01-10-04-23-15: The closed area encompasses Gorge Creek drainage within the Bob Marshall Wilderness area, including Feather, Inspiration, Gorge, Canyon Trickle, and Stadium Creeks.
All roads and trails within the closure are closed to the public. The closure includes:
Stage II Restrictions will go into effect at 12:01am Saturday, August 5th, 2023, across the Flathead National Forest, Kootenai National Forest, Glacier National Park, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation – Northwestern Land Office, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 1, and Lake County, Lincoln County, Flathead County, and Sanders County.
There are no new fires in the Swan Lake Ranger District. No new fire starts were reported today on the Flathead National Forest as of 2:00pm.
Final update (via Diane Boyd): Yesterday afternoon (Aug 2), an elderly gal from Idaho pulled her RV off to the side of the North Fork Road because she had smoke coming out from under it. In short order, it was fully engulfed in flame, which spread to the nearby vegetation. Forest Service crews had to spend several hours extinguishing a roughly 4-acre blaze and this poor lady’s vacation literally went up in smoke. Diane was the second person on-scene and saw to it that the fire was reported. I’ve attached a photo she took.
[UPDATE, 8:20pm: The fire should be contained by nightfall.]
At about 5:30pm, August 2, Kevin Ulrichsen reported in over the radio…
The Glacier View fire has caused closure of the North Fork Road south of the Camas intersection. According to Kevin, an RV/camper fire at Big Creek Campground got out of hand. He said a couple of helicopters were on scene, as well as some other equipment. The fire size is listed as 3.67 acres. See attached map for an approximate location.
Note: The position in the map may be a bit off. If the fire started in Big Creek Campground, it is actually about 0.6 miles (1km) due south of the location displayed on the map. (I.e., they got the longitude right, but not the latitude.)
Kalispell, MT, August 2, 2023 — Interagency fire managers are implementing Stage 2 Fire Restrictions that will go into effect at 12:01am Saturday, August 5th, 2023, across the Flathead National Forest, Kootenai National Forest, Glacier National Park, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation – Northwestern Land Office, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 1, and Lake County, Lincoln County, Flathead County, and Sanders County. Continue reading Stage 2 Fire Restrictions Going into Effect in NW Montana
Glacier Park responded to three new fires over the last day or so, including one above Bowman Lake that closed the trail to Numa Lookout . . .
A flurry of wildfire activity in northwest Montana over the weekend didn’t spare Glacier National Park, where firefighters on Monday were responding to three new starts west of the Continental Divide, according to public affairs officer Gina Icenoggle.
Among the 67 active fires reported in Montana in the last 24 hours are the Kishenehn Creek and Bowman North fires burning in an area of the park just east of the North Fork Flathead River, not far from the U.S.-Canada border. A third fire, dubbed the Brushy Incident, is burning along McDonald Creek between Packer’s Roost and Mineral Creek, in the scar of the 2003 Robert Fire.
(Also, Glacier NP has a new one above Bowman Lake, estimated at 0.5 acres. I noticed the lightening strike yesterday evening, right across the river from our place.)
Kalispell, MT, July 31, 2023 — A dry lightning storm overnight between July 29 and July 30 caused an increase in fire starts on the Flathead National Forest. 17 fires have been reported since the lightning storm and firefighters are investigating smoke reports and conducting initial attack.
The largest new fires are the Kah Mountain and Bruce fires on the Spotted Bear Ranger District. These two are being combined with two smaller starts into the Tin Soldier Complex. Firefighting crews are responding with initial attack and a Type 3 Incident Management Team has been ordered to take command of the Tin Soldier Complex, estimated at 80-100 acres. Spotted Bear Ranger District has seven reported fires at this time. Alcove and Stadium Creek Fires are in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. The 0.5-acre Elam Fire is along the West Side Road on the Hungry Horse Reservoir and firefighters have constructed containment lines around the perimeter.
The Hungry Horse-Glacier View Ranger District has nine reported fires, one of which is in controlled and two are now contained, including the 0.10-acre fire near Lion Lake reported this morning July 31.
The Logan Fire is contained and is approximately 0.10 acre, located in timber with an active timber sale to the south. Aerial resources delivered buckets of water this morning, slowing the fire spread in support of the firefighters who successfully constructed containment line around the fire.
The Doris Point Fire is estimated at 0.5 acre and is burning on 80-90% slope in thick timber and vegetation with prevalent large-diameter dead trees. Fire personnel were able to approach the fire on Sunday but the risk to firefighter safety is very high due to the fire’s location. Fire personnel are working to evaluate opportunities and suppression plans that prioritize safety and probability of success.
The Ridge Fire is estimated at 20-30 acres, actively backing down towards Embry drainage in mature timber with high quantities of both dead and down trees and standing dead snags. This is a full suppression fire and fire personnel are assessing control features, utilizing old logging roads. Heavy equipment has been ordered to support firefighting efforts.
The Abbot Fire is a single tree snag burning less than half a mile from the Ridge fire and has been incorporated into the Ridge Fire response strategy.
The Emery Fire is estimated at 0.10 south of the ridge fire and is successfully controlled.
Currently, there are no fire-related area or road closures on the Flathead National Forest.
Kalispell, MT, July 26, 2023 — Interagency fire managers are implementing Stage I Fire Restrictions that will go into effect at 12:01am Saturday, July 29th, 2023 across the Flathead National Forest, Kootenai National Forest, Glacier National Park, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation – Northwestern Land Office, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 1, and Lincoln County, Flathead County, and Sanders County.
Each year, 70 to 80% of wildfires are human-caused and this summer the trend has continued. Northwest Montana is currently experiencing drought conditions including extremely dry forest fuels; forecasts of temperatures above normal accompanied by low humidity, wind, and minimal precipitation; and competition for firefighting resources, as fires continue to burn across the State and the West. The intent of Fire Restrictions is to reduce fire risk and prevent wildfires during periods of high to extreme danger by decreasing potential sources of ignition.