Harris Mountain Fire now more than 19,000 acres

Updated 4:30 p.m. July 27

The Harris Mountain Fire grew more than 7,000 acres on July 27 and is now 19,103 acres burning near the Town of Cascade with 209 personnel assigned.

About 60 residences have been affected so far by the evacuation orders and notifications, according to InciWeb.

On July 27, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks said that the lower end of Holter Reservoir may be closed this week to allow firefighter resources access to the water.

“The public should be aware that if a closure is implemented, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks wardens, along with other law enforcement agencies, will be contacting boaters and other recreationists using the reservoir to leave immediately. Boating activities will be restricted from all private and public launch sites and boaters will not be allowed to travel on the water once the closure is initiated,” according to FWP.

FWP and other agencies will post closure signs at their sights around the waterbody alerting the public to the closure.

The potential closure would be in effect from Log Gulch Campground to Holter Dam. This closure would allow firefighting planes to safely fill from the reservoir. The Gates of the Mountains area and the upper reservoir would still be open to recreation, according to FWP.

The fire resources are ordered to support efforts on the Harris Mountain Fire, southeast of Cascade.

On July 26, the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office issued mandatory evacuation orders for all residents south of mile marker 7 on Adel Road, Cannon Lake Lane, Sheep Creek Road and Sheep Creek Lane, and Austin Lane. A pre-evacuation notice was issued for Novak Creek Lane.

The fire grew in all directions Monday, but mostly to the east and southeast, according to InciWeb.

Harris Mountain, Balsinger fires continue to grow, town meeting planned in Cascade on July 27

“Fire activity increased in the afternoon once the inversion lifted and continued late into the evening due to thermal belts creating ideal burning conditions in the heavily timbered draws. Yesterday, multiple air tankers dropped loads of retardant on the northeastern edge of the fire until windy conditions caused efforts to become ineffective. Firefighters and heavy equipment worked to construct fireline where feasible while others continued to provide point source protection near structures. Today, crews and heavy equipment will continue to improve existing fireline focusing efforts on closing gaps where chances of success are high on the north end of the fire. Firefighters on the west end of the fire will work their way from the south to the north constructing fireline. Engines and crews dedicated to structures will continue with assessments and point protection. Aircraft will again be utilized to assist the firefighters on the ground to slow the fire spread,” according to InciWeb.

Divide Complex, Harris Mountain fires grow

The Montana Red Cross has opened an evacuation center at the Cascade School, 321 Central Ave. W. Families can also request Red Cross Services by calling 800-272-6668.

The Balsinger Fire is now 6,722 acres and 0 percent contained, according to the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest.

The fire grew more than 1,500 acres on July 26 due to extreme fire behavior and it reached the top of Thunder Mountain and then started back down into the field on the other side, according to the Forest Service.

Two fires in Cascade County; CCSO issuing evacuation orders

“Critical burning conditions are expected again today. Firefighters will be actively working on the east and southwest sides of the fire and scouting ahead in the north to prepare for the fire’s possible movement that direction. Structure protection will continue with assistance from local volunteer fire departments. Today firefighters will focus on protecting the communities of Belt Park, Deer Creek Estates, Monarch, Neihart and the Hwy. 89 corridor to avoid loss or damage to private property / lands and critical infrastructure. Where possible, they will use mechanized equipment to establish and improve control lines,” according to the Forest Service.

CCSO evacuating Belt Park as fire intensifies

The evacuation order for Belt Park, issued by CCSO, remains in place. A pre-evacuation notice was issued for the area from the Belt Creek Ranger Station to Monarch and from west of Monarch to the confluence of Pilgrim Creek and Belt Creek.

There are 165 personnel assigned to the Divide Complex fires, which includes the Balsinger Fire and Ellis Fire, which is about 70 percent contained.

Gianforte activates Guard for wildfire operations

The following closures are in place for the Balsinger Fire:

  • All National Forest Systems lands within the boundary of the following area, except Forest Service (FS) Roads 839 and 268;
  • From the junction of Monarch and Hwy 89 heading south and all lands west of Hwy. 89 following FS Road 3412 south to junction of FS Road 839;
  • Then west and north along FS Road 839 to the junction of FS Road 586 and along the Harley Park Connector trail to the intersection of FS Road 586;
  • Then moving west connecting to Trail 347, following Trail 347 to where it meets Trail 342;
  • Then following Tenderfoot Creek west to Trail 343, following Trail 343 to Trail 341;
  • Then north along Trail 341 to the intersection of FS Road 268 and FS Road 839, following FS Road 839 north connecting with Trail 304.

Cascade County is using the CodeRED emergency notification service to notify residents about evacuation orders and pre-evacuation notices. County and city residents are encouraged to sign up for the notification system to receive alerts in case of emergency.

For more information, see CodeRED Frequently Asked Questions.

Visit the CodeRED registration page to sign up.

CodeRED mobile app is also available.