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Wildfires advance across Flathead Indian Reservation

Big Knife Fire
Big Knife Fire
Big Knife Fire
Posted at 10:02 AM, Jul 31, 2023

PM REPORT JULY 31, 2023

Monday firefighters and equipment were heavily engaged in suppression activities across the Flathead Reservation. The extreme fire behavior Sunday night caused quick growth on all five of the fires. Tribal, federal, state and local resources are working together to contain these fires across the reservation  

Niarada – Eleven miles west of Elmo, approximately 5,000 acres. Smokejumpers, single-engine air tankers, helicopters and heavy equipment have been responding to this fire. The fire is burning in very steep and rugged terrain.

Big Knife - east of Arlee, MT, about 3,000 acres. Over 100 firefighters and overhead have made progress on a containment line on the western edge. A burnout was conducted last night after the wind event, to secure a line from the trailhead of Big Knife Creek all along the western edge to Blodgett Creek. This line is holding well. Air support continues on this fire.

Middle Ridge - Southwest of Sloan’s Bridge, approximately 9,100 acres. Firefighters and heavy equipment, with the help of air support, are engaging the fire as it is safe to do so. The fire is spreading north and south in heavy timber. The western edge is burning very actively. Firefighters and equipment continue to look for opportunities to engage it safely to secure lines near structures. This fire is also receiving a lot of air support.

Communication Butte - North of Dixon, Mont. in Ferry Basin, approximately 1,500 acres. The fire is burning in grass and timber, crews have made a lot of progress putting in containment lines today. The terrain is very steep and difficult to access. It did jump the Flathead River last night.

Currently, there are no new evacuations. Evacuations in the Moiese community have been lifted.

Browns Meadows in Flathead County is still under evacuation orders.

The public is encouraged to be prepared if they are asked to leave by emergency responders.

Highway 28 and the Bison Range reopened Monday afternoon. There are speed restrictions on Highway 28.

The public is advised to be aware of emergency vehicles on roadways, as well as very dry grasses that can be easily ignitable.

AM REPORT JULY 31, 2023
Wildfires sparked by a Sunday lightning storm expanded across the Flathead Indian Reservation.

Extreme fire activity was observed Sunday with high gusting winds up to 35mph. Wind gusts are expected Monday from the west with gusts 10-20 mph.

According to the CSKT Division of Fire Monday update, the Niarada Fire west of Elmo is now estimated at 5,000 acres. The fire crossed Highway 28 Sunday and made a large push to the northeast. Highway 28 remains closed in that area. Crews and equipment are staffing the fire with air support as weather allows.

The Middle Ridge Fire west of Sloan’s Bridge and Ronan is estimated at 7,000 acres. Firefighters are staffing the fire and aircraft will continue to support the fire.

The Communication Butte Fire north of Dixon in Ferry Basin is estimated at 400 acres. The terrain is very steep and difficult to access. Firefighters and aircraft will continue to assess and engage where they can safely do so.

The Big Knife Fire east of Arlee experienced extreme fire behavior Sunday night. It grew to an estimated 3,000 acres. Crews have been focusing on securing line on the west edge of the fire, near homes and making good progress. A Complex Incident Management team has been ordered and will assume command of the fire August 1.

Big Knife Fire
Big Knife Fire east of Arlee Sunday, July 30.

The Mill Pocket Fire west of Niarada is estimated to be 100 acres.

Infrared mapping is not available at this time. Maps are rough estimates of fire perimeters. CSKT Division of Fire will share more accurate maps when available.