Paola Ridge and Whale Butte Fire Updates 9-7-18

By | September 7, 2018

From Bill Walker…

Special Notes: PLEASE DO NOT STOP ALONG HWY 2 TO OBSERVE SMOKE FROM THE PAOLA RIDGE FIRE. Fire crews are actively working in this area. Congestion along Hwy 2 may prevent crews from working safely and efficiently.

Updated closure info for Flathead National Forest: Closure areas were reduced on September 5th, but closures are still in place. Red Meadow Lake Campground is OPEN. For specific information, please see the Flathead National Forest website or the “closure” section on the fire InciWeb pages as listed above.

Weather: Some atmospheric instability exists this morning with clouds present overhead. There is a small chance of showers today into early tomorrow given this instability. Skies should remain partly cloudy in the afternoon. Today will remain hot, with temperatures nearing the 80s in the valleys and 60 – 70F on the ridges. Relative humidity will be lower today at 19% – 29% in the valleys and 35% – 45% on the ridges. Winds will be slope driven in the valleys from 5-10 mph with gusts to 20 and from the southwest at 8 to 12 mph with gusts up to 25 mph on the ridges. An inversion will keep smoke present in the morning, clearing later in the day. A cool-down is forecasted for the weekend, with temperatures around 10 degrees cooler than today. There is a slight chance of a shower or isolated thunderstorm on Saturday. Cooler, dry conditions are forecasted to continue into next week.

Paola Ridge Statistics
Location: 2 miles N W of Essex, MT
Start date: August 11, 2018
Size: 887 ac. Completion: 45%
Cause: Lightning Injuries: 1
Estimated cost $2.4 Million
Crews: 1 Engines: 4
Dozers: 1 Personnel: 53

Paola Ridge: Fire behavior remains moderate, and the Paola Ridge Fire had some growth yesterday (111 acres). The Paola fire is still actively backing down ridges on both the north and south perimeters, and other areas of the fire are mostly creeping and smoldering. The fire continues approaching the handline on Paola Ridge to the north of the fire and west of the railroad tracks. Fire managers are hiking and scouting the area every day to assess for the optimal opportunity and timing for burnout operations on the ridge. Fire on the south perimeter is burning in a younger stand of timber, and crews continue to monitor this area. The structure protection group remains present in the Pinnacle, Essex, and Dickey Creek areas. Water drops will be used if needed to slow the fire’s progression.

The Paola Ridge Fire is managed with multiple operational objectives of 50% “Full Suppression” in areas safe for fire firefighter access; 25% “Confined” (restricting the fire to a defined area, primarily using natural barriers) and 25% “Monitoring” the fire.  Operational objectives are 45% complete.

Whale Butte: Fire activity remained minimal yesterday and is expected to remain mostly minimal today. Warmer conditions, however, could cause some heating of fuels and therefore slightly increased fire activity, and firefighters are monitoring for any changes. Any hotspots within the perimeter will continue to burn themselves out. The Whale Butte Fire is in a condition that warrants mostly patrol and monitoring. One local engine remains at the Whale Butte Fire to  patrol and remain prepared for initial attack. Heavy equipment will be removing slash and debris along the Spruce Creek Road for several more days. The Whale Butte Fire is managed with operational objectives of 50% “Full Suppression” in areas safe for firefighter access and 50% “Confined” (restricting the fire to a defined area, primarily using natural barriers) for a total of 100%.  These operational objectives are 83% complete.

Whale Butte Statistics
Location: 10 mi. NW of Polebridge, MT
Start date: August 12, 2018
Size: 515 ac. Completion: 83%
Cause: Lightning Injuries: 1
Estimated cost $2.1 Million
Crews:  1 Engines: 2
Skidders: 6 Personnel: 72


Crews are prepared to take initial attack actions on any newly detected fires as needed.

Evacuations: Flathead County Sheriff issued an evacuation warning for a small number of residents near Essex, effective at 12:00 noon on August 15, 2018. For more information go to or follow @FlatheadOES on Twitter and Facebook. No evacuation warnings are in place for the Whale Butte Fire.

ClosuresClosure Orders are in effect on Flathead National Forest within the vicinity of the Paola Ridge and Whale Butte fires. Check the fire InciWeb page or the Flathead National Forest website for details:

No fire restrictions are currently in place on Flathead National Forest. Remember to use caution with fire while enjoying your public lands. One less spark, one less fire.

Aircraft Assigned: All aircraft are shared among the fires within Glacier National Park and the Flathead National Forest being managed by Mike Goicoechea’s Northern Rockies Type 1 Incident Management Team. Two Type 1 and three Type 3 Helicopters are currently assigned to the incident.

A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is in place over the Paola Ridge Fire area. If you fly a drone over a fire, air operations could be s


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About NFNews Editor

Patti Hart is the editor-in-chief and founder of the Patti lives on the North Fork during the summers and travels the world for the rest of the year, updating NFNews every day wherever there is an internet connection.

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