Crown Mountain Fire

A column of dense smoke comes off the Crown Mountain Fire Oct. 6 in the early evening. The photo was taken from Montana State Highway 435 looking southwest toward the fire. (Photo courtesy Duane Buchi/USFS)

Updated as of 1:30 p.m., Oct. 7 — Gusty winds, unseasonably high temperatures and dry conditions yesterday resulted in active fire behavior and dangerous firefighting conditions for direct attacks on the Crown Mountain Fire, which grew to from 300 to 818 acres. 

The US Forest Service has deployed 130 personnel to suppress the fire on the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest 16 miles west of Augusta, according to public information officer Chiara Cipriano. These dangerous conditions forced air and ground crews to disengage from the fire on Oct. 5 and 6, but the cooler temperatures and calmer winds in the Smith Creek area on Oct. 7 are allowing crews to assess and employ direct tactics to keep the fire perimeter west of the Petty and Smith Creek confluence.

The Crown Mountain Fire started on Oct. 4 and is burning about one mile in from the National Forest boundary south of the Benchmark Road. The USFS is warning drivers of heavy fire traffic along the Benchmark Road corridor, Smith Creek and in and around Augusta and urges people to avoid the Benchmark area. On Oct. 6, the USFS closed the Benchmark Road at the Forest boundary. Smith Creek, Petty Ford Creek and Crown Mountain trails are closed. Cipriano said to expect a larger area closure footprint in the coming days.

So far, the Lewis and Clark Sheriff’s Office has not ordered any evacuations.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. The USFS says there has been no recent lighting in the area and there have been numerous human-caused fires along the Rocky Mountain Front in the past several weeks. Please ensure any campfire is cold to the touch before leaving it unattended.

Kyle Inabit and Anthony Emacio are serving as incident commanders. They hope to have the fire contained by Oct. 31.

The fire is burning in the footprint of the 1988 Canyon Creek fire in steep, rugged terrain fueled by regenerated Lodgepole pine and heavy stands of Douglas fir. Smoke is visible from Choteau and Augusta and along U.S. Highway 287.

On Thursday afternoon, Cipriano updated the fire’s status to say that it is still burning between the Petty and Moudess Creek drainages and the newest growth was primarily to the south and the east. It did not extend beyond the Petty and Smith Creek confluence, nor did it extend to the north beyond Petty Creek.

Resources on the fire include five helicopters, two dozers, a skidgen, two hot shot crews, two Type II initial attack crews and seven engines. The USFS is using a full suppression strategy, focusing on point protection for threatened ranches and recreational residences. Installation of hoses, sprinklers and pumps was completed on the Goss and Weisner ranches on Oct. 6 and on Oct. 7 crews are doing the same for the Double Falls recreational cabins and the Ford Creek Guest Ranch.

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