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Bear Creek Fire Update 08/22/2020

DATE OF DETECTION: Tuesday, August 11, 2020

CAUSE: Lightning

CURRENT SIZE: 9,168 acres (mapping by overnight infrared flight)


LOCATION: Lemhi Pass area (29 miles East of Salmon Idaho)

JURISDICTION: Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest

COOPERATING AGENCIES: Beaverhead County (MT), Lemhi County (ID), BLM, Montana DNRC, Salmon-Challis National Forest

PERSONNEL AND RESOURCES ON THE FIRE: Resources assigned to the fire include seven helicopters, six Type 2 IA crews, two Type 1 crews, 10 engines, and 389 total personnel.

YESTERDAY’S ACTIVITY: Increased smoke and haze from several fires in California was present in the fire area by mid-afternoon. On the northwest side, the fire continued to back down into the Bear Creek drainage. This was the most active area of the fire; however, the fire had not yet reached the 3903 road. Hand crews in the area worked to improve and reinforce the equipment fuel break to the Continental Divide. Crews along the north flank continued to reinforce and hold the line along the 6869 road, taking advantage of conditions favorable for additional burnout operations to clean up residual fuels. Fire line on the north and northwest sections of the fire are coming together, effectively “buttoning up” that area and preventing further fire advancement to the north. On the south flank, crews continued to improve the fuel break along the 1883 road; a section of this fuel break resulted in the additional containment percentage. Helicopters assisted with an aerial ignition technique, where small spheres are dropped and ignite within about 20 seconds of hitting the ground. The operation assists the burnout operations by consuming fuels and producing enough heat to draw in adjacent fire. The end result is the removal of available fuels from the advancing fire – in a controlled manner under our terms and the right conditions.

TODAY’S WEATHER/FIRE BEHAVIOR: A Red Flag Warning is in effect from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. due to the dry, windy conditions. Early morning fire behavior is expected to be slow due to the presence of drift smoke. Activity is expected to increase by the afternoon hours, with increased winds and much drier conditions. Temperatures are expected in the low 80s, with relative humidity in the low teens. Wind gusts from the west/southwest are expected up to 22 mph. Active fire behavior is expected in the Bear Creek drainage, where the winds align with the topography. Increased winds will help fuel interior to the line burn out on the northwest side of the fire. 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. The extended forecast calls for precipitation and cooler weather.

TODAY’S PLANNED ACTIVITY: On the northwest side, hand crews will continue to improve and reinforce the equipment fuel break to the Continental Divide. Increased fire activity in the area could push the fire toward the 3903 road. Crews on the north flank continue to reinforce and hold the line along the 6869 road. On the south flank, crews continued to improve the fuel break on the 1883 road to the Continental Divide; resources from this part of the fire will shift to the eastern side to assist with suppression repair of constructed line. Crews have also been reinforcing line along the Continental Divide. Visibility will be a factor for air operations again today.

SPECIAL CONCERNS: 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.

CLOSURES: 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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