GREAT FALLS – The Strawberry Creek Fire burning in western Pondera County has now surged past the boundaries of the Flathead National Forest, fueled by strong winds.
The Pondera County Sheriff’s Office has initiated mandatory evacuations for residents between Swift Dam and the Karl Rappold Ranch, the Birch Creek Area and Seven Mile Lane.
The increased fire activity prompted the Pondera County Sheriff to initiate evacuations for four to five ranch owners in the vicinity of Swift Reservoir and the dam keeper’s residence.
A pre-evacuation notice has also been issued for residences farther east along Swift Dam Road toward Dupuyer. A pre-evacuation notice tells property owners to be ready to leave on short notice. Pre-evacuation calls are also being made to people living in Dupuyer, as the fire begins to spread in the directions.
A shelter has been opened at the Fireman’s Pavilliion at Lake Frances near Valier.
They said that due to the winds, firefighting aircraft can not fly at this time. When evacuations become mandatory, there will be a no-fly zone activated and this includes no drone flights. This is because of the type of aircraft that will be used to drop retardant and their flight pattern.
Road closures will be posted.
They ask that anyone who evacuates their property to tie a ribbon or colored twine on their fence posts to let responders know you have left the property.
The Strawberry Fire was reported on Aug. 25 about two miles north of Sabido Cabin, between Strawberry Creek and East Fork Strawberry Creek, in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, on the Flathead National Forest.
The fire has burned about 4,913 acres as of Monday; it made a “significant wind-driven run” to the east on Sunday, and is currently up to the west side of Mount Richmond, about one mile from Swift Reservoir.
The fire is being managed with the Scalp and Crucifixion Fires by a Type 3 Incident Management Team based in Choteau.
For more information on all Montana fires, click here.
MTN’s David Sherman