GREAT FALLS — Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest provided an update on Monday morning on three large fires.
The American Fork Fire is estimated at 12,366 acres, and is about 10% contained.
The Balsinger Fire is about 5,203 acres with no containment. The Ellis Fire is estimated at 1,277 acres, with 70% containment. The Balsinger and Ellis fires are being co-managed as the Divide Complex Fire.
The Divide Complex has 222 personnel including crews, aircraft, engines, dozers, and water tenders. The American Fork Fire has 164 personnel including crews, engines, a dozer, and a water tender. Private rancher dozers are also supporting the suppression efforts.
As of Monday morning, there have been no reports of any injuries or damaged/destroyed structures.
Under sustained red flag conditions, the Divide Complex grew again on Sunday. The Balsinger Fire increased by almost 500 acres as it continued to push east toward the community of Neihart. To the north, the fire made several runs up Thunder Mountain. Intense fire behavior with crowning and spotting continued. Aviation resources helped firefighters hold the containment line in the Wilson Park area. Heavy equipment wrapped up work on the Divide Road. On Monday, firefighters will focus on protecting the communities of Belt Park, Deer Creek Estates, Monarch, Neihart and the Highway 89 corridor to avoid loss or damage to private property/lands and critical infrastructure.
The American Fork Fire saw a dramatic increase in fire activity on Sunday as it more than doubled in size, mainly south in the American Fork drainage. Aviation and on-the-ground resources worked to hold the fire on the northern edge. On Sunday afternoon, firefighters and resource advisors who were scouting out contingency lines had to be extracted by air to ensure their safety.
Monday's fire behavior has a Haines Index of 6, which indicates the highest potential for large wildfires to experience extreme behavior. Crews will construct direct line along the southern edge of the fire to slow progression into the south fork of American Creek. In the east, they will work hard to keep the fire on Forest Service lands and toward the 2017 Blacktail Fire footprint to protect and limit the impacts to adjacent private property. Aviation resources will support firefighter activities on the ground.
- An evacuation order for Belt Park, issued by the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office, remains in place.
- A pre-evacuation order was issued last night from the Belt Creek Ranger Station to Monarch and from west of Monarch to the confluence of Pilgrim Creek and Belt Creek.
A community meeting about the Divide Complex (Balsinger and Ellis Fires) will be held on Monday at the Neihart Community Park at 7 p.m
The Harris Mountain Fire about 10 miles southeast of Cascade has burned an estimated 11,890 acres as of Monday morning.
The Woods Creek Fire near Boulder Lakes in the Big Belt Mountains has burned an estimated 2,706 acres as of Monday morning.
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