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

By | September 9, 2018

Fire Information: 406-578-8256,  8:00 am – 8:00 pm


Website: Paola: Whale:

Flathead National Forest Facebook: Twitter: @FlatheadNF

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

Weather: Skies should be partly cloudy with temperatures in the 60s in the valleys and mid 50s-60s on the ridges. Relative humidity levels will remain consistent, with lows of 32%. Winds from the south/southwest will range from 5-10 MPH with gusts up to 20 MPH in the valleys and 12-18 MPH at the ridges with gusts up to 25 MPH.  A slight cooling trend over the next couple of days is set to continue, as well as a very gradual moistening trend in relative humidity.  Temperatures may drop below the freezing mark in localized areas.  Showers are possible on Monday.

Paola Ridge Statistics
Location: 2 miles NW of Essex, MT
Start date: August 11, 2018
Size: 919 ac. Completion: 45%
Cause: Lightning Injuries: 1
Estimated cost: $2.6 Million
Crews: 2 Engines: 4
Dozers: 1 Personnel: 72

Paola Ridge: It has been numerous days since the last wetting rain, and winds have been active. This combination of factors has kept this fire dynamic. Surface fires in the dead and down fuels are leading to single and group tree torching.  The fire will continue to back through old timber towards the dozer line along the railroad tracks.  Yesterday, crews performed firing operations from the edge of the northern perimeter to the existing handline on Paola Ridge.

Today, firefighters will continue these operations, slowly bringing fire down the slope west of the railroad tracks. Helicopters continue making water drops on the north and south perimeters of the fire to slow its progression. These air operations will be ongoing, as will monitoring from the air to detect any changes or increase in fire activity. The structure protection group remains present in the Pinnacle, Essex, and Dickey Creek areas.

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: The Whale Butte Fire remains in a condition that warrants mostly patrol and monitoring. No significant growth is expected at this time. One local engine remains at the Whale Butte Fire to patrol and remain prepared for initial attack. Unneeded equipment is being backhauled from this area as conditions warrant. Fire activity remains minimal with some heat in areas of spruce and cedar timber. Hotspots within the perimeter will continue to burn themselves out. Heavy equipment removed 9 loads of slash and debris yesterday along the Spruce Creek Road.  This clearing will continue for several more days.

Whale Butte Statistics
Location: 10 mi. NW of Polebridge, MT
Start date: August 12, 2018
Size: 515 ac. Completion: 86%
Cause: Lightning Injuries: 1
Estimated cost: $2.2 Million
Crews:  1 Engines: 1
Skidders: 5 Personnel: 73

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 86% complete.


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

Updates for the Coal Ridge Fire will continue to appear on InciWeb.  Please see:

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

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. To date, $2.05 million dollars have been spent on air operations, to deliver 2.52 gallons of water, for a cost of $.81 cents a gallon. This cost has been kept lower due to availability of larger, “heavy” helicopters that can carry up to 2,650 gallons of water, as well as the proximity to large lakes close to these fires

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 suspended. If you fly, we can’t.

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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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