Red Shale Fire Update 07/27/13
Incident: Red Shale Wildfire
Fire Activity: The Red Shale Fire was detected by the Beartop Lookout at 4:30 p.m. on July 18 as a small amount of white smoke rising from an area where lightning strikes had been observed the night before.
The fire is burning in Red Shale Creek in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Fire activity is observed predominantly in the Red Shale Creek drainage and west of the North Fork Sun River. Gates Park airstrip is near the eastern perimeter. District fire managers flew with infrared capability on the evening of July 26th. Due to better mapping from this flight, the size is now at 4,958 acres. The fire is clearing much of the 2-to-3 foot high downfall and opening up the thick regrowth of lodgepole pine saplings that has blanketed the area following the 1988 Gates Park Fire.
A Red Flag Warning was in effect today due to gusty westerly winds and low relative humidities. These weather conditions resulted in earlier lifting of the inversion this morning, contributing to more visible smoke this afternoon. Air quality will be monitored from Ear Mountain and Augusta Information Center. These findings will be shared on inciweb.org, as well as at the community information boards that have been set up in Choteau, Augusta and Fairfield.
Management Actions: Evaluation and mitigation of potential risks to the public, fire personnel, and resources remains as the top priority. A long term management plan identifying activities to slow progress and reduce intensity of the fire was completed on July 24th. Heavy downfall, abundant hazardous snags and dense young lodgepole pine stands, along with remote location in the wilderness poses a challenge in ensuring safety zones and escape routes for fire personnel.
Twelve fire personnel are stationed at Gates Park. Structure protection has been completed at the Gates Park administrative site, the Gates Park pack bridge, Wrong Creek and Rock Creek Cabins. These structure protection crews will be closely monitoring the fire along with Beartop Lookout resources. In addition there is one Type II helicopter and one Type III helicopter stationed at the Choteau airport to support the fire management activities. The Type II helicopter has been dropping water on spot fires near Gates Creek.
Restrictions and Closures: The North Fork Red Shale Trail #130 was closed on Sunday, July 21 for public safety. On the afternoon of July 23 this closure was expanded to include all trails within the Sun River Game Preserve, located west of the North Fork Sun River from Rock Creek Trail #111 on the south to Sun River Pass on the north. All forest visitors travelling in the backcountry are urged to use caution and be observant to changes in weather and fire behavior. There are no campfire restrictions in effect at this time.