Wildfires expand, more evacuations ordered

Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
Evacuations in effect

The Alder Creek fire has forced evacuations around Highway 43. This image shows the fire as it appears from Tie Creek Sunday afternoon, near Wise River. Justin Stanchfield photo

Ongoing windy, hot and dry weather conditions are fueling several wildfires in Beaverhead County, though officials are hoping a predicted rain storm later in the week will help.

The Trail Creek fire – the largest fire in the county – sat at 31,124 acres and 0% contained Monday, according to InciWeb. Fire activity increased Sunday due to high winds, pushing the fire up to the Continental Divide and across the Idaho border. The fire, which started July 8, is roughly 20 miles west of Wisdom and was started by lightning.

The Alder Creek fire, roughly eight air miles west of Wise River, and the Christiansen fire, about 12 miles west of Wise River, also expanded from the winds on Sunday. The fires are not too far apart from each other and may merge. Alder Creek is 8,347 acres and was 10% contained as of Monday. The Christiansen fire is 4,070 acres and not contained. It is unknown what caused those fires.

Evacuations are in effect for residents on the southwest side of Highway 43 from Alder Creek Road north to the Dickie Bridge, and previous existing evacuations remain in effect.

The lightning-caused Black Mountain fire, roughly 13 miles south of Jackson, was at 968 acres and 0% contained as of Monday.

The Goose fire, which started July 1 32 miles south-southeast of Ennis, grew to 7,471 acres and has pushed into southern Beaverhead County. The fire, also started by lightning, was at 78% contained as of Monday.

Thunderstorms are possible later in the week throughout Montana, according to the National Weather Service Great Falls office. Rain, hail, strong winds and localized flooding in lowlying areas are predicted in southwest Montana starting Wednesday.

Air quality alerts are in effect due to wildfire smoke.

Stage 2 restrictions in effect

Interagency fire management officials ordered Stage 2 fire restrictions at midnight Friday, July 23, to reduce the risks of human-caused wildfires during extreme drought conditions and high fire danger. The Bureau of Land Management’s Western Montana District issued Stage 2 restrictions at midnight Thursday, July 22.

Stage 2 restrictions prohibit igniting, building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire; smoking except within a closed vehicle or building, a developed recreational site or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter (that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials); operating motorized vehicle off designated roads and trails as defined by the respective agency. In addition, the following are prohibited from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m.: operating any internal combustion engine; welding or operating any acetylene or other torch with an open flame; or using explosives.

For more information on fire restric tions, visit www.mtfireinfo.org. For more information about area fires, visit inciweb.nwcg.gov.