BREAKING NEWS: Beartrap 2 Fire listed 57 percent contained

UPDATE: June 29, 9 a.m. – Crews on the Beartrap 2 fire continued to work Thursday to get a hold of the 15, 270 acre blaze, taking advantage of wind and weather conditions to execute burnout operations and build fireline using heavy equipment.

Aircraft and helicopters flew above the fire area throughout the day, and the incident information website www.inciweb.org wildfire reported a 57 percent containment level by Friday morning.

Firefighters continued to work through the night Thursday to secure operations, and planned actions for Friday include strengthening completed fireline as well as building more where needed. Personnel will also be patrolling areas where the line has already been secured.

Current resources on the fire are listed by www.inciweb.org as four 20-person crews, one Type 1 Hotshot crew, two helicopters, fifteen engines, four dozers and one water tender, with a total of 223 people.

Highway 84 was closed off and on Thursday for burnout operations, and one-lane traffic with pilot cars may be needed throughout the day Friday as incident personnel work close to the road. Repair crews from Northwestern Energy will also be working to replace damaged power poles.

The National Weather Service forecasts a high temperature of 88 degrees with west to southwest winds from 5 to 8 mph. Inciweb.org lists the current humidity level at 8 percent.

For further updates on the Beartrap 2 Fire check back at www.madisoniannews.com or www.inciweb.org.

 

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Photos taken by Steve DiGiovanna, Ben Coulter and Greg Lemon

UPDATE: June 28, 1 p.m. – A summary of notes on the Bear Trap Fire from Steve DiGiovanna incident commander for the first two days of the fire until Wednesday morning when Stan Benes with the Type II Incident Command Team took over. Here are some excerpts:

“The Type 2 Northern Rockies Incident Management Team officially took Command of the fire on day three. The first day of the Beartrap II incident, the fire burned 2,200 acres and was contained to the south and east side of the river.

As the Incident Commander during those first two days, my most pressing concern outside of firefighter safety was to keep the fire from jumping Highway 84 and the Madison River.

Unfortunately, on day two at approximately 2:10 pm, the fire jumped both.

With relentless winds gusting to nearly 70 miles per hour, there was extreme fire behavior and even a brief but extremely intense firestorm near the Warm Springs fishing access. That is where we lost the first residential structure – within 20 minutes of the fire blowing up on day two.

It was during this period, (between 2:30 pm and 8 pm), that the fire grew to more to more than 14,000 acres and raced nearly 8 miles to the north. Only a (welcomed) wind shift from the west and improving weather conditions kept the fire from threatening more Madison County homes and ultimately, the community of Harrison. If this incident had occurred in late July or August, the story could be quite different.

On day one, we had two state helicopters and more than twenty-five engines working the fire. The engines on the scene were ALL VOLUNTEER. All of them except three people on two units had to return home at the end of the first day.

On day two, (though we tried very hard) we could only get 15 engines and one hand crew to return to our incident. Several of the apparatus were single person units only. Not good for what was in store. With the extreme wind event, we also lost the use of the two helicopters on day two. Another bad break.

The Pony and Beartrap II fires may be a forecast for a challenging summer for Madison County residents and firefighters alike. If we do not get more precipitation soon, it could be a difficult summer for fire activity in our area.”

UPDATE: June 27, 10:30 p.m. – The Beartrap 2 fire on Highway 84 along the Lower Madison River has grown to approximately 14,770 acres as of Wednesday evening as crews continue working through the night tonight to hold the fireline.

According to the incident information website www.inciweb.org the blaze is 12 percent contained, and at least three structures have been confirmed destroyed by the fire. The incident website also said the fire burned actively in grass along uncontrolled perimeter in heavier fuels within canyons and on north-facing slopes.

An information briefing on the fire for concerned stakeholders is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at the Harrison Rural Fire Department.

Fire information officer Mariah Leuschen said that support for the Beartrap 2 Fire remains limited because of all the other wildfires in the region, but she expected to have more resources on the line tomorrow as weather conditions continue to improve for fighting the fire. A Type II Incident Management Team led by Stan Benes assumed command of the fire at 6 a.m. this morning.

Crews utilized dozers to construct firelines, and Leuschen said that burnout operations to protect threatened structures went well today.

“A lot of today was getting out and scouting and seeing what was actually out there on the line,” Leuschen said. “In the morning we’ll have a much more clear view as far as what happened on night operations and what specifics they’re going to be doing for tomorrow’s actions.”

For further updates on the Beartrap 2 Fire check back at www.madisoniannews.com or www.inciweb.org.

UPDATE: June 27, 2 p.m. – MT 84 is currently open from Blacks Ford to Norris after closing to all traffic Tuesday because of the Beartrap 2 Fire along the Madison River.

Evacuations are in effect from Blacks Ford to south to Norris, and pre-evacuation notifications are in effect north from Blacks Ford into Gallatin County.

The Type II National Incident Management Team led by Stan Benes assumed command of the fire at 6 a.m. this morning, and additional resources have been requested. Current personnel resources as listed on the incident information website inciweb.org include one 20-person crew, one Type I Hotshot crew, and two Type II helicopters.

So far two structures have been confirmed destroyed by the fire, and personnel will continue to scout and construct fire line through all divisions.

For further updates on the Beartrap 2 Fire check back at www.madisoniannews.com or www.inciweb.org.

UPDATE: June 27, 9:30 a.m. – Yesterday evening, Steve DiGiovanna, who was the Bear Trap Fire incident commander until this morning when Stan Benes with the Type II Incident Command Team took over, sent around an email detailing the activity on the fire yesterday. Here are some snippets of DiGiovanna’s report and photos he took.

“By 1000 hrs, wind gusts neared 40 mph and fire behavior was more and more erratic. The fire had jumped Highway 84 near Red Mountain Campground several times, briefly threatening a house between the river and the highway. Quick work by the fire units at the scene and an even quicker evacuation by fire personnel saved the home and prevented injuries.

At one point, an NBC reporter ( Katherine Mozzone ) had to be quickly evacuated in a Command car to prevent injuries or possibly worse while filming the notification of threatened residents. She was separated from her camera for some time.

By late morning the crews were making good headway on the fire. Skies were clearing and fire activity was being held in check. Things looked good and well in hand until the wind really began to blow. By noon, winds were gusting to 50 miles per hour. Sand, dust and debris stung exposed skin during the stronger gusts. Opening a car door or just walking outside was challenging. Keeping your eyes protected was paramount.

At 1420 hrs, Command received a report from the Mission Valley Hand-crew that the fire had jumped the Madison River near the Warm Springs boat launch. We immediately got eyes on the area and found that the fire had jumped in two location and was building fast. Within 10 minutes, the new blaze had grown to more than 40 acres and extreme fire behavior was being observed. Flame heights of over 100 feet were common.

Our worst case scenario had been realized. The fire was now free to eat up acreage as fast as the wind and weather would allow.

Winds were now blowing a steady 45 mph, with gusts approaching 70mph. The fire was moving north and there was no stopping it. For the next two and a half hours, the fire burned with lightning speed. It moved north through Madison County and into Gallatin County – a distance of more than four miles. Fire crews did their best to corral the fire but getting in front of it was out of the question. Highway 84 was closed to all traffic.

Though the fire was not mapped, an estimate of the acreage has the size at more than 4500 acres.”

UPDATE: June 26, 9 p.m.

BEAR TRAP CANYON – When the Bear Trap Fire was reported late Monday morning, the wind along the lower Madison River was already gusting to more than 30 mph and the temperatures were close to 90.

Madison County communications director Steve DiGiovanna was dispatched to be incident command on the fire. He said the initial report estimated the size at 40 to 50 acres. By the time the first fire crews arrived, he figured it was more than 200 acres and moving fast.

The fire was started by people playing with fireworks across the river from the Warm Springs Fishing Access Site. The area was under a red flag warning issued by the National Weather Service from Great Falls. Red flag warnings are issued when the conditions are ripe for rapid fire growth.

To further complicate matters, local fire crews had been busy the day before on the Pony Fire, which was burning just to the west of the Bear Trap Fire in the Tobacco Root Mountains outside of Pony. Local resources were already stretched.

As firefighters began structure protection on homes and outbuildings in the path of the Bear Trap Fire, officials from the Bureau of Land Management and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks were working to close down all recreation in the Bear Trap corridor. Trappers Creek Campground was evacuated early on and the fishing access sites along the river were closed by 3 p.m. Monday. The last group of tubers floated lazily by, while a helicopter dipped water from the river to try and douse the flames that were burning from the river’s edge to the canyon crest.

All the while a gusting, hot wind pounded the canyon from the south, making flying hazardous and creating eddying winds that blew the fire up steep canyon chutes and twisted flames into devilish twisters of orange and red.

The fire was active through the night Monday and on Tuesday morning at 8:30 the temperature was already above 80 and the wind was gusting to more than 40 mph.

The fire responded by racing north, spotting across Highway 84 and eventually the Madison River, while crews worked to protect private property, structures and homes.

Still, two structures have burned in the blaze.

On Tuesday more than 100 firefighters were working the fire, including about 25 fire engines and two helicopters, said BLM fire information specialist Terina Mullen.

The weather Tuesday afternoon was extreme, Mullen said. Fire crews reported sustained winds of 51 mph at times and the fire behavior was dramatic.

“The rates of spread have been very rapid,” she said.

On Tuesday night, a type II incident command team from eastern Montana was briefed on the fire and will take over Wednesday morning, Mullen said. Highway 84 remains closed, though it could open periodically depending on fire behavior.

“Conditions out there are changing every 10 minutes,” she said.

The main concern for fire officials now is the fire continuing to move northeast toward Blacks Ford Fishing Access Site, Mullen said. The fire isn’t as active where it crossed the Madison River, but that is still a major concern. Residents along the Madison River Road, which runs between Blacks Ford and Three Forks, have been given preliminary information about evacuations, though no one along Madison River Road has been evacuated.

Residents along the Cold Spring Road have been evacuated.

The fire is burning on BLM and private land.

For more information, check www.madisoniannews.com. We are posting information as soon as we gather it.

UPDATE: 2:50 p.m. – The Bear Trap Fire has also jumped west across the Madison River, pushed by 40 mph winds. The fire is now burning on both sides of the Madison River and Highway 84. Crews are experiencing intense fire behavior. Aerial resources are grounded because of the winds and fire crews are focusing on structure protection, according to an update published on Inciweb.

The winds are due to a passing cold front and are expected to continue through the night and into tomorrow, according to Zach Uttech, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Great Falls.

Due to Tuesday’s activity on the Bear Trap Fire, officials from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks have decided to keep Black’s Ford Fishing Access Site closed and is considering closing more sites downstream. All recreation facilities in the Bear Trap Canyon are closed due to the fire.

UPDATE: 2 p.m. – Officials have closed Highway 84 between Norris and Bozeman. The Bear Trap Fire, which is burning near the entrance to the Bear Trap Canyon recreational area, jumped the highway earlier this afternoon, as winds of more than 40 mph pushed the fire north.

Keep checking back for more information as it becomes available.

UPDATE: 1:15 p.m. – Sustained winds of 40 mph have pushed the Bear Trap Fire across Montana Highway 84, according to Terina Mullen, fire information spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management.

The winds also forced helicopters fighting the blaze to pull back.

Mullen couldn’t confirm whether or not Highway 84 is closed to traffic, but encouraged motorists to stay away from the area.

 

5 Responses to BREAKING NEWS: Beartrap 2 Fire listed 57 percent contained

  1. Tracy says:

    Thank you for the updates, Greg.

  2. bill wasserman says:

    Fine story. Terrific photos.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Greatly appreciate your fantastic, up to date reporting!!

  4. randy brown says:

    great reporting Greg…great newspaper…thank you

  5. Joan Vicknair says:

    Great pics,but so heart breaking.

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