NewsWildfire Watch


New management team arrives to help fight Flathead Indian Reservation fires

Northern Rockies CIMT
Posted at 4:47 PM, Aug 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-03 11:04:42-04

ARLEE - The Big Knife Fire outside of Arlee has now burned around 2,000 acres.

A Northern Rockies Complex Incident Management Team took charge of the Big Knife Fire Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2023.

"Really what we're doing is working with CSKT to come up with a good long-term plan where we can keep the fire out of values at risk such as people's homes and private property. And manage how the fire burns across the landscape up into the primitive area," Incident Commander Mike Behrens told MTN News.

The new team brings extra logistical and organizational resources to battle the blaze.

"It's hard to truly make sure the right fire is getting the right resources at the right time when they're being managed by three or four separate incident commanders. With us having the three fires, we're able to have a more complete picture across the three fires to make sure whether it be aviation, ground, or equipment resources, they're all coming in at the right place at the right time," said Behrens.

Behrens and his team sat down with the CSKT Division of Fire on the evening of Aug. 1 to learn the lay of the land and connect lines of communication.

"CSKT and their partners have done an amazing job with the limited resources. They've made great progress on Niarada and Mill Pocket as well as coming up with a good initial plan for Big Knife, a fire that's going to be on the landscape for the remainder of fire season," Behrens shared.

The Northern Rockies Team wants to protect the public, homes and properties, and sacred lands as best as they can.

"We're working closely with CSKT to make sure where we're putting a dozer line or where we're running equipment that we're not doing irrevocable damage," Behrens said.

The team is also assigned to the Niarada and Mill Pocket Fires near Elmo. Those fires have had some containment, unlike Big Knife.

"The terrain is gentler, it's more open, there's more grassy fuels, light fuels that are more easily managed [at Niarada and Mill Pocket]. Big Knife has heavy down and dead fuels, you got steep and rocky terrain which lower your chance of success."

The Northern Rockies Complex Incident Management Team will have a camp set up to help firefighting crews at the Arlee Community Center and at the Powwow grounds in Elmo.