As of Monday, September 12, the 41 Complex continues to burn in rugged terrain about 10 miles east of Hamilton. On Monday the fire had burned 8371 acres with very little containment.
West winds provided the fires with momentum to move towards the east, as evidenced by the acres gained on the Coyote and Fox Peak fires on Sunday. Aircraft were continuing to support suppression efforts on the Up Top Fire, and had dropped 48,000 gallons of water and 22,000 gallons of retardant as of Monday afternoon. Firefighters completed a successful burn out operation Sunday night. On Monday they were in the process of constructing direct line against the fire’s edge on the southwest and northwest sides of the Up Top Fire. If winds remain favorable, more burnout operations are planned. These burnout operations are not “prescribed burns.”
Dozers and feller bunchers continued to clear vegetation on the northwest and southwest sides of the Up Top fire on Monday to keep it from spreading toward private land. Not only has a line been cleared on the west side of the fire, an extra contingency line has been constructed by heavy equipment to stop any fire that might cross the first line. This action supports fire management objectives to protect private property. The area around Skalkaho Falls will continue to be protected by sprinkler systems keeping the area wet.
Firefighter safety remains a major concern due to rugged terrain and large areas of snags from previous fires as well as bug-killed dead and dying trees. All fires are expected to grow during the daily burning periods due to continued hot, dry weather and active burning in mountain side thermal belts during the nights.
Greg Poncin’s Northern Rockies Incident Management Team is managing the fires. As of Monday afternoon, three hundred and twenty-one people were assigned to the fire, including eight crews, 14 engines, two helicopters, two water tenders, three feller bunchers, three dozers and one skidgeon. Additional crews, helicopters, and heavy equipment were expected.
The Skalkaho Pass Highway (State Highway 38) from mile post 14 to mile post 30 remains closed. Railroad Creek Road (Forest Road No. 711) is closed in its entirety from Skalkaho Rye Road #75 to Skalkaho Highway. Skalkaho Rye Road #75 is closed from the #720 junction to the junction of the #1394 road. Butterfly Road #364 is closed at the Darby/Stevensville District boundary. In addition to road closures, a temporary flight restriction (TFR) has been placed over the fire area with a ceiling of 12,000 feet. Additional closure information can be found on Inciweb. The public can expect to encounter fire traffic on Hamilton Heights Road as firefighters access the northwest side of the Up Top Fire.
Smoke will continue to settle in the Valley through next week. Contact the Ravalli County Public Health Department at 375-6577 or www.todaysair.mt.gov for additional information. For specific fire information, contact the Fire Information Incident Center at 375-8123 or 375-8125 between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. A Fire Information Trailer is open weekdays from 12 to 8 p.m. at Canyon View Church, 195 Skalkaho Highway or visit www.inciweb.org/incident/2544.