CCSO evacuating Belt Park as fire intensifies
Cascade County Sheriff’s Office deputies are evacuating residents of the Belt Park area, which is between Monarch and Neihart.
According to Sheriff Jesse Slaughter, due to the high winds on the evening of July 11, the Balsinger Fire is now endangering homes in the Belt Park area.
Cascade County Disaster and Emergency Services division said July 11 that the Montana Department of Natural Resources and the Forest Service have asked that residents of Belt Park evacuate immediately as the fire “has experienced a dramatic increase in activity due to weather and wind conditions.”
The Red Cross has set up a temporary shelter at St. Mark’s Catholic Church at 128 Castner St. in Belt. Those in need of temporary shelter should contact Red Cross of Montana at 1-800-272-6668, according to county DES.
According to noonish July 11 update from InciWeb, the fire complex includes three fires and the Balsinger Fire is an estimated 60 acres, the Ellis Fire is an estimated 110 acres and the Iron Mines Fire is less than an acre and smoldering.
The Balsinger Fire started July 8 and CCSO deputies had been in the area warning people to prepared to evacuate but the fire activity had died down and deputies left the area by that evening, according to CCSO.
The three fires are being managed together as the Divide Complex by staff from Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, neighboring forests and Montana DNRC, according to InciWeb.
“We are using a full suppression strategy to manage these fires that are currently burning west of the White Sulphur, Monarch, and Neihart communities,” Agency Administrator and District Ranger Carol Hatfield said in an InciWeb statement. “With many large incidents nationwide, resources are spread thin.”
A new closure order is in place for the Balsinger and Iron Mines fires and the protection of the public and firefighters. The trail closures apply to all National Forest System trails and roads, including those segments from the Taylor Hills trailhead on the Divide Road (Forest Service Road #839) to the Belt Park Connector (Forest Service Road #6511), including trails #304, #305, #315, #344, and #343. The entire length of the Old Divide Road #253 is closed, according to InciWeb.
Officials are also responding to the Rock Creek Fire near Wolf Creek that burned more than 2,000 acres and closed I-15 for hours on Saturday, according to InciWeb.