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Bear Creek Fire Update 08/21/2020

Current as of 8/21/2020, 7:04:32 AM

Size 8,500 Acres 20% Contained

The Type 2 IMT (Northern Rockies Team 5) assumed command of the fire on August 13th. Resources assigned to the fire include seven helicopters, seven Type 2 IA crews, three Type 1 crews, 14 engines, and 453 total personnel.

Portions of Montana are seeing increased smoke and haze, as smoke from several fires in California dispersed and circulated north. Fire behavior was relatively quiet, with single tree torching and surface fire in the areas with heavy dead and downed fuels. On the northwest side, the fire continued to back down into the Bear Creek drainage. Crews on the north flank continued to reinforce and hold the line, taking advantage of conditions favorable for small burnout operations to clean up residual fuels. To the west, heavy equipment completed work to connect line from the 515 road to the Continental Divide; hand crews followed and reinforced the machine-created section. On the south flank, crews continued to improve the fuel break to the Continental Divide. Due to smoked-in conditions, aerial support was somewhat limited. A helicopter and several resources assisted with a new fire start near Polaris. 

Early morning fire behavior tomorrow is expected to be slow due to the presence of drift smoke from the new fires in California; activity is expected to increase by the afternoon hours, as a drier air mass enters the fire area. Active fire behavior is expected in the Bear Creek drainage, where the winds align with the topography. Winds over the fire area are highly variable due to topographic features and the proximity to the Continental Divide. Dry and windy conditions are forecast through early next week. 

Crews will work to improve the line on the 1883 road on the southern flank, reinforcing and improving a more “direct” line closer to the active edge of the fire. To the north, crews will hold and secure line along the 6869 road. If conditions are favorable, they will continue with burnout operations further to the west along the ridges. On the northwest side of the fire, hand crews will improve and reinforce the machine fuel break to the Continental Divide. Gusty winds and smokey conditions could again limit air operations. Fire managers will assess the new start near Polaris; smokejumpers and retardant are on order.

Public and firefighter safety concerns are the top priority. Any public using the roads near the fire area should expect heavy fire traffic; please drive slowly for safety reasons. Hunters should check Inciweb and/or call for closure information and maps. 

The fire is burning in timber/heavy fuels. These fuels will continue to dry out with low relative humidity. The area provides poor access and there is a lack of water in the immediate area of the fire. Crews will work to protect cultural and natural resources and other values at risk. 

Area, road, and trail closures are in effect. Refer to the “Closures” and “Photos” tabs of the Inciweb site for narrative descriptions and maps of all agency closures. Lemhi Pass Road is closed from its junction with Montana Highway 324 to Lemhi Pass. The public is strongly encouraged to refrain from entering the area/nearby road system due to heavy fire traffic. There are no official evacuation orders associated with the fire. 

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