Paola Ridge and Whale Butte Fires Update for 9-11-18

By | September 11, 2018

From Bill Walker…

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: The weather will continue to trend toward cooler temperatures. Temperatures will be in the mid-50s to low 60s.  Southwesterly winds will be 6-10 MPH with gusts up to 20 MPH. Relative humidity levels will increase with a potential high of 43%. There is an outside possibility of a thunderstorm, but it is unlikely to be joined by a wetting rain.  Light showers are expected in the early evening.

Paola Ridge Statistics
Location: 2 miles NW of Essex, MT
Start date: August 11, 2018
Size: 1001 ac. Completion: 45%
Cause: Lightning Injuries: 1
Estimated cost: $2.6 Million
Crews: 1 Engines: 5
Dozers: 1 Personnel: 50

Paola Ridge: Frequently, firefighters will ignite fires in the path of an oncoming wildfire in order to burn the nearby vegetation and deprive the larger fire of fuel before it arrives. In addition to hand ignition on the ground, aircraft may use a plastic sphere dispenser (PSD), to drop plastic spheres (informally known as “ping pong balls”) that ignite on impact with the ground. Yesterday, crews successfully completed PSD firing operations from the edge of the northern perimeter along the top of Paola Ridge to the existing dozer line before the railroad tracks.

Today, crews will continue hand ignition down to established firelines. Firefighters will also patrol and monitor the firelines, mopping up where necessary.  Air support will operate as necessary, providing water drops. The structure protection group will continue their preparation and surveillance work in the communities of Pinnacle, Essex, and the 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 requires patrol, monitoring and debris removal. Fire activity remains minimal. No significant increase in fire activity is expected. An occasional, interior smoke may still be visible from the Whale Butte Fire. Heavy equipment operators continue to remove loads of slash and debris along the Spruce Creek Road. This work will be ongoing for a few more days. Once this it is completed, the rehabilitation of dozer lines will begin.

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 87% complete.

Whale Butte Statistics
Location: 10 mi. NW of Polebridge, MT
Start date: August 12, 2018
Size: 515 ac. Completion: 87%
Cause: Lightning Injuries: 1
Estimated cost: $2.2 Million
Dozers:  1 Engines: 1
Skidders: 2 Personnel: 46


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, one Type 2 and three Type 3 helicopters are currently assigned to the incident. To date, $2.3 million dollars have been spent on air operations, delivering 3 million gallons of water, for a cost of $.78/gallon.

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.

Category: News Tags:

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.