Sheep Fire Update 8-27-15 9:00am
Residents of Essex and the surrounding area remain on evacuation alert.
Weather: Conditions will be changing going into the weekend. A cold front is approaching and will drop temperatures Sunday. In advance of this front, winds are expected to increase by Friday and Saturday. Until then, smoke will persist over the area. There is a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms with this advancing front. Winds will be from the southwest increasing to 15-20 mph with gusts of 25-35 on the ridges possible on Saturday. With the passage of the front, temperatures will drop 10-15 degrees with an increase in humidity.
The Sheep fire is the incident priority of the three fires that make up the Thompson-Divide Wildfire Complex, as it is approaching US Hwy. 2 and the BNSF railway and is threatening the community of Essex. The 1002-acre fire remains about 1 mile south of Essex on the Flathead National Forest. It is burning in very steep terrain with no road access. As of last evening, the fire was within 1/4 mile of the railroad track. Fire activity continued to be limited by the persistent inversion during the morning and early afternoon Wednesday.
Four feller-bunchers and two grapple skidders were transported to the fire area by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to start construction of a shaded fuel break from Sheep Creek to Dickey Creek drainages. The objective of this fuel break is to reduce brush and ground cover and space the tree crowns to limit fire spread. It will also provide a safe location for firefighters if it is decided to burn out fuels in advance of the fire front.
Helicopters continued to do water and retardant drops to check fire spread when there was enough visibility. This work will continue today.
Equipment operations will start during the night to increase the amount of fuel break constructed prior to equipment crews stopping work in early afternoon for safety concerns. Aerial and hand ignition may be used to even fire spread above Sheep and Macdonald Creeks. Helicopter bucket drops are being used to limit active fire spread. A night shift continues to monitor fire movement and patrol the Essex area and Walton compound for any fire activity.
The Granite Fire is 386 acres west of Marias Pass and south of Hwy. 2 in and north of the Great Bear Wilderness. It is burning in very steep terrain in a mixed conifer forest below a ridge. Yesterday the fire backed down in all directions. Crews have implemented structural protection measures on several backcountry cabins, trailhead structures, a wooden road bridge and a radio repeater. Crews have established locations for line construction and possible shaded fuel break when sufficient crews become available for their construction. Helicopter bucket drops are being used on the north end to help check fire spread.
The Thompson Fire is located in remote south-central backcountry of Glacier National Park about 15 miles east of the West Glacier entrance in the Thompson and Nyack drainage west of the Continental Divide. The fire area now covers 17,090 acres. Firefighters that were inserted by helicopter back into the Nyack Creek Drainage are doing some limited burning and continue to mop up. This operation should be completed tomorrow. Pumps and hose lay are in place in case a future need arises.
Most of Glacier National Park is unaffected by this wildfire complex and is available for recreational use. Limited backcountry closures are in place. For more specific visitor information, please see the website http://www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm.
The Thompson Fire has not impacted park roads. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is open.
For information on the Reynolds Creek fire, please visit http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4405/#