Paola Ridge, Coal Ridge and Whale Butte Fires Update Wednesday, September 5

By | September 5, 2018

From Bill Walker…

The latest official press release for the Whale Butte, Coal Ridge and Paola fires…

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


Websites: Paola: Whale: 

Coal Ridge:      

Flathead National Forest Facebook: Twitter: @FlatheadNF 

Special note: PLEASE DO NOT STOP ALONG HWY 2 TO OBSERVE SMOKE FROM THE PAOLA RIDGE FIRE. Fire crews are actively working in this area and need to have room to do so. Congestion in this area may prevent crews from working safely and efficiently. 

Weather: Wednesday will be mostly clear in the morning and become partly cloudy in the afternoon. Chance of wetting rain is 0%. Temperatures will be 68F to 75F in the valleys and 57F to 64F on the ridges. Relative humidity levels will be 25% as a low in the valleys and 38% as a low on the ridges. Winds will be up slope/up valley and from the southwest at 5 to 12 mph with gusts up to 20 mph. A high pressure will build over the area for the remainder of the week, bringing a warming, drying trend. There is a slight chance of rain and cooler temperatures over the weekend, then cooler, dryer conditions are forecast to continue into next week.

Paola Ridge: Fire behavior remained moderate yesterday on the Paola Ridge Fire, and smoke was visible on the south perimeter. Today’s fire activity should be mainly on the south flank of the fire, with backing and flanking through a stand of old timber towards the dozer line along the railroad tracks. There may be an occasional single tree torching. All other areas of the fire should be limited to smoldering and creeping behavior. No significant fire growth is expected today. Crews have successfully prepped firelines on the Paola fire and will improve, hold, and patrol the firelines today. The structure protection group has completed structure assessments in the Pinnacle, Essex, and Dickey Creek areas and will remain present to implement any structure protection needs. Helicopters will be used as needed to slow the fire’s progress as it backs down Paola and Dickey Creeks.

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.

Paola Ridge Statistics
Location: 2 miles NW of Essex, MT
Start date: August 11, 2018
Size: 776 ac. Completion: 45%
Cause: Lightning Injuries: 1
Estimated cost $2.3 Million
Crews: 3 Engines: 3
Dozers: 1 Personnel: 89

Whale Butte: The Whale Butte Fire is at 78% completion of operational objectives. Fire behavior remained minimal yesterday and reconnaissance flights located only two small areas of heat/smoke. Today, fire activity should remain limited to creeping and smoldering, and any hotspots within the perimeter will continue to burn themselves out.  A hose lay is in place on the northern perimeter to keep backing fire behavior to a minimum. At this time, the Whale Butte Fire is in a condition that warrants only patrols and monitoring, with occasional action on hotspots on the north flank if needed. There are still several days of work ahead for crews and heavy equipment to process and remove materials (slash and debris) from this area.

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 78% complete.

Whale Butte Statistics
Location: 10 mi. NW of Polebridge, MT
Start date: August 12, 2018
Size: 515 ac. Completion: 78%
Cause: Lightning Injuries: 1
Estimated cost $1.7 Million
Crews:  1 Engines: 4
Skidders: 1 Personnel: 40

Coal Ridge: The Coal Ridge Fire again showed minimal and isolated areas of heat and smoke yesterday. Any fire behavior remains limited to smoldering and creeping, and fuel and weather conditions will limit fire growth. Fire crews and heavy equipment will continue removing slash and debris from the shaded fuel break constructed along Hay Creek Road, Forest Service Roads 1685 and 1671 and Moose Creek.

The Coal Ridge Fire is managed with operational objectives of 50% “Confined” (restricting the fire to a defined area, primarily using natural barriers) and 50% “Monitoring” the fire.  Operational objectives are 62% complete.

Coal Ridge Statistics
Location:10 mi W of Polebridge, MT
Start date:               August 12, 2018
Size: 280 ac. Completion: 62%
Cause: Lightning Injuries: 0
Estimated cost $440,000



Engines: 2

Dozers: 5 Personnel: 71










Incident managers continually reevaluate personnel and equipment needs assigned to the fires and make adjustments as fire conditions dictate.

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 Whale Butte and Coal Ridge fires. 

ClosuresClosure Orders are in effect on Flathead National Forest within the vicinity of the Paola Ridge, Whale Butte, and Coal Ridge 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.


To date, helicopters have dropped a total of 1.99 million gallons of water on the five fires managed by the Northern Rockies Type 1 Incident Management Team (Paola Ridge, Coal Ridge, Whale Butte, Howe Ridge, and Boundary fires). Costs for these air operations activities are currently 1.7 million, which equates to approximately 85 cents per gallon of water.


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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