Red Shale Fire 07/29/13
Incident: Red Shale Wildfire
Fire Activity: The Red Shale Fire was reported 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 and Gates Creek in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Fire activity is observed predominantly north of Red Shale Creek and west of the North Fork Sun River. The fire did cross the mouth of Ray Creek, where Type 2 Helicopter is actively making water drops. District fire managers flew over the area in the evening of July 28, and reported the fire size as 8613 acres. Active fire behavior continues within the 1988 Gates Park Fire area, in heavy downed and standing dead timber with pockets of young lodgepole pine stands that are regenerating from previous fires.
As the result of Red Flag Warning on July 27, the weather brought more visible smoke and some ash traveling in the westerly winds. Red Flag Warnings are issued during critical fire weather conditions when combination of low humidity and high erratic winds make it probable for very active fire behavior. Although the smoke and ash were affected by this, the fire observed only moderate growth and is still within the identified management points in the long term plan. Weather for today expects a chance of showers and storms by late afternoon to early evening today, with strong pacific system brining in widespread wetting rains on Thursday and Friday.
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.
Structure protection has been completed at the Gates Park administrative site, the Gates Park pack bridge, Wrong Creek and Rock Creek Cabins. Fire personnel are stationed at Gates Park to monitor the fire along with Beartop Lookout resources. In addition there is one Type 2 helicopter and one Type 3 helicopter stationed at the Choteau airport to support the fire management activities.
Restrictions and Closures: For public safety, 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. Changes and / or additions to the closure are expected as the fire continues to move through the 1988 fire scar. 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.