Fire danger on the Rocky Mountain Ranger District remains very high on Aug. 19 as the lightning-caused Wood Lake fire, 12 miles west of Augusta, has grown from three acres to an estimated 73 acres and is 0% contained, according to the US Forest Service.
The Prairie Reef lookout reported the Wood Lake fire at 10 a.m. on Aug. 17 at an estimated size of three acres. By 6 p.m. the same day, its growth was estimated at 50 acres with active fire behavior and spotting a quarter of a mile ahead of the fire front. The fire is in steep, rugged terrain on the upper third of a north-facing slope.
The Rocky Mountain Ranger District’s initial response consisted of a six-person district fire module and a four-person engine module. The Lewis and Clark Interagency Hotshots were on-scene by 2 p.m., supported by two Type-1 helicopters for water drops, and one Type-2 helicopter for transportation needs. Additionally, a large air tanker delivered five loads of retardant and single-engine-air-tankers delivered 15 loads of retardant, which helped hold the fire until fire crews could mobilize. There are 96 personnel working on the fire and Alex Brooks is serving as the Type III incident commander.
Yesterday’s operations: Crews made considerable progress in reinforcing water drops and retardant line throughout the day and limiting further fire growth. Crews spiked out near the fireline last night to be in place and ready to engage early this morning.
Today’s operations: Crews will work throughout the shift reinforcing retardant line and will begin building fireline around the perimeter of the wildfire. Their efforts will be supported as needed by three Type-1, one Type-2, and two Type- 3 helicopters. Two 20-person crews and local engines will work to reinforce past fuels reduction efforts in the Double Falls and Aspen recreational residence areas. Their work will include a combination of perimeter hose lays to reinforce prior treatment areas. With a red flag warning in place today, firefighters will need to be extra vigilant to changing conditions.
Evacuations and closures: To facilitate the safety of the public and suppression of the Wood Lake wildfire, a temporary closure has been placed on Wood Lake, Wood Lake campground, Wood Lake picnic area and the Petty-Crown Trailhead and associated loop trail. In addition, the USFS has closed all dispersed camping from the forest boundary along Benchmark Road to Wood Lake. However, Benchmark Road will remain open to through traffic at this time. Motorists are asked not to stop in the fire vicinity to keep roads open and safe for both public and fire traffic.
Weather and fuel conditions: A red flag warning has been issued for the fire area until 9 p.m. this evening. Weather forecast for today is partly sunny, with a high of 89 degrees, with relative humidity dropping to about 20% this afternoon. Winds will be from the northwest at 7 mph to 9 mph shifting to the east southeast in the afternoon. Conditions will remain sunny throughout the week with temperatures staying in the upper 80s into the weekend. The wildfire is burning in heavy timber, litter and a subalpine fir understory.
Temporary flight restrictions: Temporary flight restrictions are in effect around the entire fire area.
Physical information availability: Fire information boards will be posted daily at the Augusta Information Station and the Choteau Ranger District Office. Information will also be available on the fire information line, 406-740-7005, via email at email@example.com, on social media at https://www.facebook.com/HLCNF/ and on the Inciweb site at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6995/.