Bear Creek Fire over 7,400 acres, 10% contained

J.P. Plutt
Wednesday, August 19, 2020
Quick dip

The Bear Creek fire near Lemhi Pass is utilizing numerous airplanes and helicopters to battle the blaze that started Aug. 11 and had grown to over 7,400 acres as of Tuesday morning. Two fixed-wing CL415 water scooping airplanes have been making numerous dips into Clark Canyon Reservoir to fill their 1,620 gallon tanks. In addition, eight helicopters, dipping into area streams, ponds, and a portable heli-well are also providing aerial support. The scoopers are drawing crowds of curous onlookers along the beaches of the reservoir and filling the overlook sites along Highway 324.. J.P. Plutt photo


Operations Section Chief Kevin Smith took the photo above of the Bear Creek Fire from the east side of Black Canyon on Monday afternoon.

The Bear Creek Fire near Lemhi Pass has grown to over 7,400 acres as of Tuesday, a week after it was first reported. A crew of 445 total personnel under the direction of the Forest Service is battling the blaze.

The lightning caused fire is west of Clark Canyon Reservoir and has burned through timber stands with downfall fuels, and range land. The days of smoky skies in Dillon match up with days the fire is burning through timber.

Tuesday’s fire information fact sheet from the Forest Service reported under a “Today’s Planned Activity” heading that, “active fire behavior is expected in the interior fuels on the east and north ends of the fire. Crews in the north will continue to hold the line and mop-up from yesterday’s completed burnout operation, cleaning up and addressing an area of unburned heavy fuel interior to the line. To the west, crews will work to connect line from the 515 road to the Continental Divide, continuing with the multi-day project, with support from heavy equipment. To the south, crews will continue to improve the fuel break to the Continental Divide. Helicopters and scoopers are available for aerial support. Two aircraft will be on hand for initial attack of new fire starts, given the predicted lightning in the area.”

Weather continues to be a factor with temperatures regularly hitting the high 80s during the day and winds whipping flames with gusts over 30 miles per hour at times during the week of the fire.

The Forest Service warns Clark Canyon Reservoir recreationists that they need to stay clear of the stretch of water the scooper planes are accessing during their refilling runs. The planes make a northeast to southwest run starting at the old marina site and running beween Armstead Island and the west side of the reservoir, passing in front of Camp Fortunate Overlook and Camehwait Campground before exiting the reservoir heading toward Horse Prairie Creek.

Additionally, the Forest Service warns that any members of the public using the roads near the fire area should expect heavy fire traffic; please drive slowly for safety reasons. Hunters should check Inciweb and/or call for closure information and maps.

There are road and trail closures in effect in the area near the fire. Refer to the “Closures” and “Photos” tabs of the Inciweb site for narrative descriptions and maps of all agency closures. Lemhi Pass Road is closed from its junction with Montana Highway 324 to Lemhi Pass. The public is strongly encouraged to refrain from entering the area/nearby road system due to heavy fire traffic.

On Friday, the BLM issued an order closing BLM-administered lands in the fire area. A press release read:

Due to the rapidly-growing Bear Creek Fire, the Bureau of Land Management’s Dillon Field Office has issued a fire prevention order temporarily closing all BLM-administered lands south of Lemhi Pass Road, west of U.S. Highway 324, and east of the Continental Divide along the Montana stateline.

The Fire Prevention Order takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 14 and lasts until rescinded. The BLM closure is in coordination with other orders issued by the U.S. Forest Service regarding the fire.

The order prohibits public access to the area in order to avoid conflict with the ongoing fire suppression activity associated with the nearby fire which grew from 200 acres to nearly 4,000 acres in less than two days.

Updated information on the Bear Creek Fire is available online at https://

A copy of the closure order and a map of the affected area are available at the Dillon Field Office, 1005 Selway Drive, Dillon, MT 59725. For more information, call (406) 683-8050.

Other Fires

Two recent fires are contained. The Bon Accord Fire near Badger Pass burned 188 acres according to Don Copple, the DNRC Incident Commander. He says the fire is 100 per cent contained and “for the most part under control.” He added that residents may see small smoke from inside the fire and that daily patrols are checking the area.

The Old Baldy Fire eight miles east of Twin Bridges was listed in Inciweb as 50 per cent contained on Aug. 8, the last updated posted on the site. The fire charred 129 acres.