HELENA – The Shellrock fire sent up a plume of dark smoke visible on the horizon north of Helena on Sunday afternoon.
The Shellrock fire is burning in heavy timber near border between the Beartooth Wildlife Management Area and Sieben Livestock Company ranchlands.
The fire is approximately 5 miles north of Beaver Creek Road, and two miles west of Middle Creek Lake on the Sieben Livestock Company ranch.
- Firefighting efforts: The fire began as a lightning strike on the afternoon of Saturday, August 11th. Initial attack efforts began that evening, but personnel could not reach the fire and engage until the morning of Sunday August 12th. By nightfall on Sunday, 14 U.S. Forest Service Smokejumpers were working on the fire with one DNRC engine crew providing support as well. Two Single Engine Air Tankers also worked on the fire Sunday.
- Land Ownership: Currently the fire is actively burning on the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Beartooth WMA and on the Sieben Livestock Company ranch.
- Size: The most recent estimate for the Shellrock fire is approximately 125 acres, though heavy tree cover, thick smoke, and active spotting make an exact size estimate difficult.
- Terrain: The Shellrock fire is burning in steep, remote country with extremely difficult access. Initial fire activity was concentrated in high elevation sparse subalpine fir timber, but the fire has spread downhill to the east into heavy timber. This heavy fuel and steep terrain hinders firefighting efforts and reinforces firefighter safety as a paramount concern.
- Resources threatened: The fire is currently in position to threaten a high-voltage powerline which runs north-south approximately 1.5 miles east of the fire. In addition, the fire could threaten at least two ranch cabins and the historic Hump Cabin on Sieben Livestock Company lands. The fire has already impacted the grazing and timber lands of all affected landowners.
- Outlook: The DNRC has mobilized the DNRC County Assist (CAT) Incident Management Team which will start arriving on Monday morning. The CAT Team consists of various skilled professionals who provide logistical support to firefighting efforts.
- This Incident Management Team will help to coordinate firefighting efforts between agency resources and landowners and provide an organizational structure to help fight the fire. This incident management structure is particularly valuable in effectively utilizing the limited firefighting resources available, and in providing logistics considering the fire’s limited access and remote nature.
Fire personnel have ordered heavy equipment and hand crews, however due to the high demand for resources, there is no firm timeline for the arrival of any new resources. Firefighters hope to have slight break in the weather on Monday with slightly cooler temperatures but temperatures are forecast to rise again as the week progresses.
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