Hundreds of firefighters working the Robertson Draw and Crooked Creek fires received a little assistance from Mother Nature over the weekend. Isolated rain showers and cooler temperatures in the past …
Hundreds of firefighters working the Robertson Draw and Crooked Creek fires received a little assistance from Mother Nature over the weekend. Isolated rain showers and cooler temperatures in the past few days gave crews relief from the heat.
The Robertson Draw Fire has burned 29,838 acres between Clark and Red Lodge and was 65% contained as of Monday. The Crooked Creek Fire in the norther Pryor Mountains has burned more than 3,924 acres and was 72% contained. Meanwhile, officials in Yellowstone National Park reported their first wildfire of the year on Thursday. The lightning-caused fire burned about a tenth of an acre on a ridge south of Blacktail Drive and west of Petrified Tree before being snuffed out by firefighters.
While Yellowstone officials sometimes allow fires to burn, the Elk Creek Fire was immediately suppressed “due to an unfavorable location this early in the fire season.”
Meanwhile, firefighters continued to patrol and mop up hot spots along the southern and eastern sides of the Robertson Draw Fire. A few interior areas along the south side of the fire near the Wyoming border continued to burn and generate smoke late Sunday.
“These areas that are burning are well interior from the containment lines,” according to a Monday press release from Custer Gallatin National Forest officials.
On the northwest side, firefighters continued to search for hot spots along hand lines and crews completed some thinning work along forest roads near U.S. Highway 212. The initial attack group assisted with the work and remained prepared to respond to any new fires.
Low cloud cover and the chance of storms continued to prevent crews from attacking the plateau on the west side of the fire. More than 300 firefighters are working to contain the fire.
Authorities say the fire was started on the morning of June 13 by a dirt biker. The Carbon County, Montana, Attorney’s Office has charged a Bridger man with felony and misdemeanor crimes, alleging he accidentally spilled gasoline on the ground and set it ablaze while trying to repair his bike. Prosecutors say John Lightburn, 55, had been riding in area that’s closed to motor vehicles.
The Robertson Draw Fire grew rapidly in hot, dry conditions and destroyed 21 structures.
Evacuation warnings remain in effect for the areas located south of Red Lodge and east of U.S. 212. The North and South Grove Creek Road, Gold Creek Road, Ruby Creek Road, Meeteetse Trail and Robertson Draw Road are closed to public use. The Forest Service recommended all area residents have an evacuation plan.
“Please remain vigilant and be aware of the fire situation and your surroundings,” the release advised.
All Custer Gallatin lands south of Point of Rocks in the Rock Creek drainage and east of U.S. 212 are still closed. That includes trailheads, campgrounds, dispersed camping areas, and Forest Service Recreation Residences in Corral Creek and Spring Creek. This is in addition to a Forest Closure Order encompassing the Line Creek Plateau.
A closure order is also in effect on all Bureau of Land Management lands lying west of State Highway 72, south of State Highway 308, and east of 212 in Carbon County.
Hot, dry weather is forecast for the rest of the week heading into the Independence Day holiday weekend.
The fire danger in Yellowstone National Park is currently high.
Additionally, officials at both the Shoshone and Bighorn national forests have implemented so-called stage 1 fire restrictions across the forest last week based on vegetation measures and other risk factors. That includes a prohibition on any fires outside of Forest Service fire pits or fully enclosed stoves.
“With increasing fire danger, we are implementing these restrictions to protect public health and safety,” said Shoshone National Forest Supervisor Lisa Timchak, adding, “Our fire managers will continue to monitor conditions and if they improve, we will reassess the restrictions.”
Park County commissioners are set to consider adding county-wide restrictions on open burning during a special Wednesday morning meeting.
(CJ Baker contributed reporting.)