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Containment elusive for Monument, Wigwam fires

by by KECI-TV staff |

MISSOULA, Mont. — The following is a collection of updates on wildfires burning across Montana. NBC Montana is continuing to follow these fires and this list will be updated throughout the day as soon as new information becomes available.

The U.S. Forest Service has released the following update for the Monument and Wigwam fires:

Monument Fire: 5,733 acres, 5 percent contained; Engines: 2; Water Tenders: 2; Total Fire Personnel: 122

Wigwam Fire: 4,191 acres, 0 percent contained; Engines: 11; Dozers: 3; Water Tenders: 1; Total Fire Personnel: 132 Helicopters utilized for both fires: 4 Fixed wing air tankers dropped retardant along Johnny Ridge north of Monument Fire to help check fire spread. Along Johnny Ridge Road crews are clearing brush and preparing the road for firing operations to burn out ground fuels back toward the main fire. The southern part of Monument Fire burned into Ruby Creek, consuming most available fuels and remained calm today. In the southeast, crews are scouting out opportunities for fireline locations to keep the fire west of Teepee Creek drainage.

Crews on the Wigwam Fire continue to scout for natural barriers and locations for indirect line to keep fire on the northeast side of Gravelly Range Road and continue removing brush and fuels from Road 292. A contingency line (a dozer line or road located where fire spread can be checked) has been constructed on the north side of Wigwam Fire to Haypress Lakes and will continue to Haypress Lakes Trail Road.

Night shift crews were positioned on both fires to patrol, check spot fires, and provide for structure protection. A structure protection group has been formed to specifically focus on protection of structures threatened by fire. Structure protection actions include removing fuels from around structures, laying fire hose, sprinkler systems and other actions.

Helicopters continue to support both fires dropping water where needed, particularly in the Wigwam Creek area. Fixed wing air tankers are available when needed. Crews will continue structure protection, evaluating opportunities for direct suppression, locating contingency lines, and suppress spot fires. A contingency line is being constructed to enhance structure protection for homes and private property in the Haypress Lake area.

The fires are located south and west of Ennis, Mont., in very rough mountainous terrain, in the 9,000-foot elevation range, within the Gravelly Range Mountains south of Ennis, Montana. They are burning in whitebark pine and subalpine fir, with approximately 70 percent standing dead timber from bug kill and other natural conditions. Southern California Incident Management Team 3 is managing both the Monument and the Wigwam Fires for full suppression to limit fire spread and protect structures and other public and private values at risk. Public and firefighter safety is always the first priority during fire suppression.

Evacuations: Haypress Lakes area was evacuated August 12. An Evacuation Order from the Haypress Lakes gate southwest to the forest border. From the gate northeast the remainder of Shining Mountains subdivision is under an Evacuation Warning. The Red Cross has been placed on standby at this time and will be reactivated if needed.

Area closures: Being handled by multiple agencies, including United States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are in effect for the Gravelly Range Mountains.