GREAT FALLS — The Ellis, Balsinger, and Iron Mines Fires are now being managed as the Divide Complex. The fires have burned an estimated 2,500 acres as of Monday morning.
The Cascade County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday evening issued an evacuation order for residents of Belt Park due to fire activity northwest of Neihart. A community meeting will be held on Monday at 7 p.m. at the Neihart Community Center in the gymnasium.
On the Ellis Fire, there are four Type 6 Engines, two Type 2 Initial Attack modules, two dozers, and one water tender assigned to the fire, for a total of 86 personnel on the fire. Type 3 Incident Commander Marc Hamlen is working in conjunction with Type 3 Incident Commander Drew Brown on the Balsinger Fire.
On the Balsinger Fire, there are a total of eight Type 6 Engines, one Type 2 IA Module, and a water tender. A total of 33 personnel are assigned to the Balsinger Fire. Before 4p.m. on Sunday, there was little fire activity and the crews worked on reinforcing the fire line on Divide Road. However, the gusty winds in the late afternoon and the variable nature of the fire’s movement forced fire personnel to evacuate the area. There were spot fires one half to a one mile ahead of the main fire’s perimeter. The fire pushed northeast and then south, and the IC called for the evacuation of Belt Park. After the call for evacuation, the fire grew 1 to 1.5 miles moving downhill through old-growth sub alpine timber. As of early this morning, the fire had not crossed south of Divide Road, FS Road 839. A helicopter is making bucket drops on the spots this morning and afternoon mainly to the south of the fire’s perimeter.
A pre-evacuation order was issued for the Smith River corridor from Camp Baker in the south to Blacktail Creek to the north. On Sunday afternoon, high winds pushed the fire over the previously constructed line onto the Rockin C Ranch. The smoky conditions from the many fires in the region kept the fixed wings and LAT from completing their mission. This morning, crews are scouting for new locations to build fire line using handcrews and dozers. The smoke on Sunday made it challenging to get a more precise gauge of the fires’ spread.
Air resources are being shared between the two fires. Two Type 2 helicopters and two Type 1 helicopters are performing bucket drops. There are a total of 123 personnel assigned to the Divide Complex. Resources are spread very thin with many large incidents nationwide. The highest priority is to protect the safety of fire personnel and protect human life.
Closures and Additional Information: An area closure is in place for public and firefighter safety on the Balsinger Fire. From the junction of North Pilgrim Creek trailhead #304 following Belt Creek East to the convergence of Belt Creek and Tillinghast Creek, south along Tillinghast Creek to the intersection with road 6511, along the Harley Park Connector trail to the intersection of Road #586, then moving West connecting to Trail 347, following trail 347 to where it meets Trail 342, then following Tenderfoot Creek west to Trail 343, following Trail 343 to Trail 341,then North along Trail 341 to the intersection of Road #268 and Road 839, following Road 839 north connecting with Trail #304. Visit: https://go.usa.gov/x6SWS to view a copy of the closure order and map.