Fire status report: Vance Hill & Werner fires

From Ryan Butler, Assistant Fire Management Officer-Operations for Hungry Horse-Glacier View RD…

Today, July 24th, 2023 we had a new start in the Vance hill area north of Polebridge. Township 34 N, Range 2W NW, NE section 28. The fire was reported around 1450 hours by Numa, Cyclone and Thoma lookouts. Size is currently ¾ acre in timber and brush. Due to the quick response of Flathead Helitack they were able to keep the fire from spreading. Currently Helitack and district fire personnel are being successful suppressing this fire.

This was a human caused fire on private, unattended campfire. Please help spread the word in the north fork community that we are in VERY HIGH fire danger and planning level 4. Fire season is well under way with no relief in sight.

The WERNER fire was declared out 07/24/23 at 1200 hours. All fire personnel are off the fire.

Red Meadow Fire – an official update

A note just received (5:00pm, July 20)from Fire Chief Lynn Ogle…

I just spoke with Lincoln Chute with the County.  He said that the last word on the Fire on Red Meadow is contained.  The last word from USFS was that the crews are doing “Mop-up” and will be probable spending the night.  More later if there is any more.  

From Andy Huntsberger, District Fire Management Officer…

Today, July 19th, 2023 we had a new start in the Red Meadow Creek Drainage. Township 35 N, Range 22 W, SW corner of section 17. The fire was reported around 2200 hours on July 18th and we responded to the reported fire this morning.

The fire is currently about 2 acres in size and we have 20 fire personnel on scene. 8 Helicopter Rappelers from the Kootenai NF and 12 Flathead NF Fire personnel. To date, we have used Type 1 and 3 helicopters for water bucket drops to help contain this fire. Fire activity is creeping and smoldering with some intermittent small flare ups. The smoke is light, white and visible from Red Meadow Road FS115. Fire suppression operations are being successful at this time.

There are no trail, road or area closures at this time.

Local fire season begins with the Red Meadow Fire

Red Meadow Fire location, July 19, 2023
Red Meadow Fire location, July 19, 2023

The “Red Meadow Fire” so far…

We don’t have much information yet. Reported at 9:42am, July 19, it is quite a ways up the ridge south of Red Meadow Road, about 6.5 miles west of the North Fork Road Junction. It was initially estimated at 1.5 acres. It looks like they’ve got at least two engines assigned to it and possibly some air support.

See the accompanying location map snagged from the DNRC Interactive Fire Map website.

Red Meadow Fire, July 19, 2023 - helicopter at Moran Meadow - photo courtesy of Cheryl Crane
Red Meadow Fire, July 19, 2023 – helicopter at Moran Meadow – photo courtesy of Cheryl Crane

Time to get ‘firewise’!

Quartz Fire August 18 evening - NPS
Quartz Fire August 18, 2022,evening – NPS

An excellent article in the Flathead Beacon about this year’s rapidly approaching fire season . . .

As Flathead County passes the midpoint of its fifth-driest year since 1894, top fire managers are bracing for a worrisome wildland fire season. Despite those ominous projections, officials say “firewise” residents and fire-adapted communities can provide the best line of defense by taking common-sense precautions to prepare.

With roughly 63,000 Flathead County residents living in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), or about 65% of the population — including 7,745 new residents who have migrated to the WUI in the past two years, according to U.S. Census Bureau data — top fire officials say education, outreach and proactive property owners could spell the difference between a calm or catastrophic summer.

“It’s just something that people need to understand and realize,” Fire Service Area Manager Lincoln Chute said Friday. “We live in a fire environment, so we all have a responsibility to mitigate the risk. And most of what we’re asking from folks is just commonsense behavior and maintenance.”

Continue reading . . .

June/July/August 2023 Wildland Fire Potential Outlook

I’m a little late in posting this, but here is the June/July/August Wildland Fire Potential Outlook.

July, August and September are looking dry for extreme Northwest Montana. The shaded areas are actually west of the Whitefish Divide, but lines mean nothing at that scale.

And this is merely an outlook based on global weather. What we get is what we get. What we do know is that we are dry for June now, even with the moisture that has come. Mountain snowpack is low, which is more of an issue for river floating than it is for fire season.

We should all hope for nice wetting rains spaced weekly through July and August, and the fall rains coming in after Labor Day. Works for me!

Regardless, now is a great time to do your trimming and grass mowing and get prepared for fire season. The July 1 update will give us a better forecast, but we all know we have fire season in July and August, sometimes carrying into September and October. Let’s hope for a short and quiet fire season.

Here is the link to the Outlook itself, and the file is attached:

Reminder: Basic Fire Training Day, Thursday, June 22

Greetings all!!  Here is the Agenda for the North Fork Basic Fire Training Day on June 22nd…

    • We’ll start at Sondreson Community Hall at 0930.  We’ll have coffee, bottled water, and light refreshments available.  Molly will open with brief introductions, then turn it over to Richard Hildner to brief the exercise at the Hildner Cabin.
    • The Group will travel to the Hildner residence at 350 Moose Creek Rd.  Structure Assessment forms will be passed out, the group split into teams, and the teams will be tasked with assessing the structures and the fuels modifications surrounding the structures.  We would appreciate Lincoln Chute, Todd Lando and Gary Mahugh forming the oversight group to put together the “book answers” and to debrief the teams as they report out on their findings.
    • At noon, the Group will return to the Community Hall for their brown bag lunch.  During this time, we’d appreciate it if Gary Mahugh would have some of his standard firefighting tools and supplies available to display and sell.  And Sean Johnson, if you could brief the Wedge Canyon TIP application process, there is time for that.  We don’t have plans to have a projector or laptop available for this event, but if you need a projector, the NFLA has one we can use.  You’ll either need to bring a laptop or let us know you need one.
    • After lunch, Kevin Ulrichsen will lead a discussion about how to suppress fires within the Structure.  We have asked Kevin or Lynn to lead a moment of silence in memory of Doug Barnes who passed away in a house fire.  We would like Gary Mahugh and Lynn Ogle to also participate in the discussion on fire suppression inside the structure.

Molly can wrap up whenever things are done – no later than 3:30.

More information: Basic Fire Training Day poster (PDF format)

Submit those Firewise-qualifying activities and expenses!

In order to maintain membership in Firewise USA, North Fork landowners must make an annual investment in wildfire risk reduction efforts. We’re required to calculate the number of hours spent in Firewise-qualifying activities, and the expenses associated with those activities.

A summary of some of Firewise-qualifying activities and expenses follows:

    • Collaboration and consultation time with forestry and fire experts
    • Organizing, planning, coordinating, implementing wildfire-related outreach events and educational presentations
    • Program administration time
    • Travel time to risk reduction meetings, trainings, and workshops
    • Attendance at wildfire-related education/informational meetings and events and at evacuation/preparedness trainings
    • Firewise improvements and maintenance on homes and outbuildings
    • Improvements and maintenance within the home ignition zone — for example, thinning or limbing up trees, reducing ladder fuels, dealing with slash and other debris, moving firewood piles
    • Vegetation removal; community clean-up
    • Committee members attendance and participation at Firewise committee meetings
    • Residents’ attendance and participation at wildfire education/outreach events
    • Writing wildfire educational articles

Qualifying expenses include equipment and tool purchases; mileage at the current IRS rate for attendance at wildfire-related meetings and trainings; purchases of food for meetings/trainings; contractor and labor expenses to perform risk reduction work; and the value of volunteer labor participating in risk reduction projects.

The Fire Mitigation Committee asks North Fork landowners to add up the number of hours they have spent in qualifying activities as well as the expenses they have incurred from November 1, 2021, to October 31, 2022. Please email your total hours and expenses to Molly Shepherd, Your hours and expenses will be included in applying for renewal of the North Fork’s membership in Firewise USA.

Prescribed burns planned for Moose and Whale Creek drainages

Flathead National Forest prescribed burns, 2022
Flathead National Forest prescribed burns, 2022

The Flathead National Forest just published information on this fall’s prescribed burns. The only entry of local interest is this one (listed under “Hungry Horse District” for some reason)…

Red Whale Fuels Reduction— Approximately 750 acres will be targeted for 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 to 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 and improve wildlife habitat.

Of course, any prescribed burn is contingent on weather, fuel conditions, and air quality lining up just right.

The entire press release is available online here:
Fall prescribed burns planned in the Flathead National Forest

September/October Wildland Fire Potential Outlook

Greetings all! The latest Wildland Fire Potential Outlook was released today, and it is as expected. The continued hot and dry weather in early September will give us above normal fire activity in Northwestern Montana:

The good news, of course, is that we did receive a little precipitation in the North Fork – and that was welcome. But, we have two to three weeks of fire season left at least. Days are getting shorter, nighttime temperature and humidity recovery is significantly improving (except in the thermal belts), which really decreases fire activity.

We aren’t out of the woods yet – and we have the potential for some significant fire yet this fall, especially if we remain warm and dry through September into October.

Check out the latest report – and don’t let your guard down! Thanks. Allen

Aug 26: Quartz Fire grows two acres; crews patrolling after Thursday’s lightning

Quartz Fire aerial, August 25, 2022 - NPS
Quartz Fire aerial, August 25, 2022 – NPS

From the Press release . . .

National Park Service
Glacier National Park
Incident Commander: M. Lewelling

Fire Information Email:
Fire Information Recording: 406-206-6099
Fire Information Office: 406-206-5272 (8 am to 6 pm)

Quartz Fire grows two acres; crews patrolling after Thursday’s lightning 

Current Situation: The Quartz Fire was mapped at 1698 acres last night, resulting in a two acre increase over the infrared mapping done Tuesday night. Consistent rains over the past few days have significantly reduced fire activity. Scattered heat remains within the fire’s perimeter.

Wet weather over the Quartz Fire resulted in additional lightning to the area. Glacier fire personnel observed many lightning strikes resulting in two fires in the northwest region of the park. The Numa Lookout observed one lightning strike in the late afternoon resulting in a tree torching. A crew accessed the area via helicopter but did not find any active fire yesterday. Firefighters will hike in from Bowman Lake today to patrol the area and will be prepared to respond if any new fires are discovered. Firefighters located at Quartz Lake observed a second lightning strike in the Quartz drainage near the Quartz Fire, but there was no smoke observed after the afternoon rain. Crews will continue to patrol and scout the Quartz area today.

Weather: Winds are expected to increase on Friday ahead of a cold front that will pass over Glacier on Saturday. Winds will be 10-20 mph from the west through the day and 5-15 mph overnight, which may slightly increase fire activity during the warmest part of the day. Smoke may be visible if fire activity increases.

Closures: Glacier National Park has enacted a Closure Order for the areas, campgrounds, and trails within the Quartz Lake drainage from the Continental Divide to the Inside North Fork Road for the protection of park visitors, employees, and natural resources. This includes the Quartz Lake Loop trails starting from just south of Bowman Lake toward Quartz Lake, as well as the Quartz Lake and Lower Quartz Lake Wilderness Campgrounds. A map of the closure is available on InciWeb.

Fire Restrictions: The fire danger rating in Glacier National Park is currently Very High. All park visitors are reminded that campfires are allowed only in designated fire rings or grates and should be kept small. Never leave a fire unattended and drown any campfire with water until cold to the touch before leaving it.

Air Quality: National air quality and smoke conditions can be monitored at Visibility in different parts of Glacier National Park can vary from hour to hour, depending on fire and wind conditions both locally and throughout the west. Check the park’s webcams at for current views.

Quartz Fire Statistics:
Size: Approximately 1698 acres
Total Personnel: 35
Start Date: Sunday, August 14, 2022
Containment: 0%
Cause: Lightning
Location: 25 miles north of West Glacier

Quartz Fire Closure Map, August 18, 2022
Quartz Fire Closure Map, August 18, 2022