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Red Shale Fire Update (July 31, 2013)

Fire Activity:  The Red Shale Fire was reported by the Beartop Lookout at 4:30 p.m. on July 18, as a small amount of white smoke rising from an area where lightning strikes had been observed the night before.

Fire activity is observed predominantly north of Red Shale Creek and west of the North Fork Sun River in Red Shale and Gates Creek in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The fire did cross the mouth of Ray Creek, where Type 2 Helicopter is actively making water drops when flying condition permits. Fire behavior is observed within the 1988 Gates Park Fire area, in heavy downed and standing dead timber with pockets of young lodgepole pine stands that are regenerating from previous fires.  

The cooler temperatures over the last 24 hours have resulted in minimal yet effective fire behavior. Dead and downed timber is continuing to get consumed by the fire, while the increased relative humidities have reduced the likelihood of spotting or extreme fire behaviors. 

Two smoke monitors are available for this area, real time data is available at: http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/cgi-bin/smoke.pl This site should be used in conjunction to determine which health effect category: http://www.deq.mt.gov/FireUpdates/BreakpointsRevised.mcpx on this page, the right most column on the table (1-hr BAM) will be the most appropriate column to use for the current air quality.  Once the health effect category is determined, the following website: http://www.deq.mt.gov/FireUpdates/SmokeCategories can be referenced for cautionary statements and potential health effects.

Management Actions:  Evaluation and mitigation of potential risks to the public, fire personnel, and resources remains as the top priority.  Heavy downfall, abundant hazardous snags and dense young lodgepole pine stands, along with remote location in the wilderness poses a challenge in ensuring safety zones and escape routes for fire personnel. A long term management plan identifying activities to slow progress and reduce intensity of the fire was completed on July 24. This plan will be routinely reviewed by District Fire Managers to ensure management actions are adequately addressing concerns identified in the plan.

Structure protection has been completed at Gates Park, Wrong Creek and Rock Creek Cabins and the Gates Park pack bridge. Fire personnel are stationed at Gates Park to monitor along with Beartop Lookout resources. In addition there is one Type 2 and one Type 3 helicopter stationed at the Choteau airport to support the fire management activities.  

Restrictions and Closures: Trail closures were changed on July 30, 2013.  Trail #109 from the junction of the Route Creek Pass Trail #108 south to the junction of Headquarters Creek Trail #165 has been closed for public safety. The Chinese Wall Trail #175 has been reopened to travel north to Spotted Bear Pass, but no camping is allowed along the trail north of Trail #131.  Rock Creek Trail #111 remains closed.  Route Creek Trail #108 is fully open, and the North Fork Sun River Trail #110 is open from the junction of Trail #108 north to Sun River Pass.  Open Fork Trail #116 is also now open, and 2.5 miles of the North Wall Trail #174 from Trail #116 south to Moonlight Peak Trail #132 has been re-opened. All forest visitors travelling in the backcountry are urged to use caution and be observant to changes in weather and fire behavior.  Visitors should contact the Fire Information number above before travelling to the area.  There are no campfire restrictions in effect at this time.

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