Montana Outdoors

September 1, 2017

Sheep Gap Fire September 1, 2017

The Sheep Gap Fire here in western Montana has expanded into a rather large fire and is now threatening homes on two sides of its perimeter. For the next few weeks (hopefully not months) I plan to document its progress on the blog.

As of last night I will also again have the privilege of being a member of the Plains/Paradise Rural Fire Department and so I expect to be busy, but as time permits I will take and post what photos I can of the fire activity and the fire progress.

These photos (except for the last one which was taken two nights ago) were taken of two small helicopters that are dropping water on the fire this morning. Resources are very scarce now with all of the fires burning in this part of Montana.

Sheep Gap Fire

Sheep Gap Fire

Sheep Gap Fire

Sheep Gap Fire

Sheep Gap Fire

Sheep Gap Fire

Sheep Gap Fire

Sheep Gap Fire

Sheep Gap Fire

Sheep Gap Fire

Sjeep Gap Fire

This last photo was taken two nights ago when there was a clear view of the flames.

Sheep Gap Fire at night

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33 Comments »

  1. Seems like such a tiny amount of water when the bucket is viewed against the expanse of the fire. I’m sure the owners of the homes that are threatened are going through a bit of trauma. I hope they can beat the fire back.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by wordsfromanneli — September 1, 2017 @ 12:55 pm

    • They are trying to control the hot spots at the leading edge of the fire and that’s the most they can do. It helps, but it’s a little like spitting on a bonfire. Everything is at the mercy now of wind velocity and direction.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — September 1, 2017 @ 1:11 pm

      • You almost need fire trucks with lo-o-o-ong hoses so you could pump it from the river. I guess that’s a bit too far though. But yes, like spitting on a bonfire….

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by wordsfromanneli — September 1, 2017 @ 1:40 pm

        • The river is about a mile above the river so the choppers can make a lot of trips but we really need much more than that.

          Like

          Comment by montucky — September 1, 2017 @ 2:04 pm

  2. What will you be doing? Clearing brush and areas around homes?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Candace — September 1, 2017 @ 1:28 pm

    • No. Our task will be respond to any new fires that we can get close enough to. Last night we spent about 5 hours in a staging area in case we would have to keep the fires away from the road that would be necessary for those who might have to be evacuated. Fortunately last night the fire behavior wasn’t that bad.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — September 1, 2017 @ 1:58 pm

      • So you’re actually fighting the fire? Yikes, be careful.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Candace — September 1, 2017 @ 1:59 pm

        • Rural Fire doesn’t usually get on the fire lines because there are all of the other events we may need to respond to like structure fires and automobile accidents, etc. If the fire reaches the roads where we can reach it with our trucks we will be active. We support the Forest Service also with one of our water tenders and sometimes with one of our brush trucks where there is road access. I can remember many times when we acted with a first attack on a new fire and because we can get there quickly with what we call “brush trucks” we were able to control them quickly. Our “Brush trucks” are F350s and F450s outfitted with high pressure pumps and they cary 300 gallons of water. The can go into action very quickly.

          Liked by 1 person

          Comment by montucky — September 1, 2017 @ 2:14 pm

  3. I hope it all works out and the wind blows it away from you. Stay safe!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by New Hampshire Garden Solutions — September 1, 2017 @ 3:18 pm

  4. Yes, those helicopters look pitifully small with their water loads. I’m praying for early snowfall for your state, but I daresay that’s some time off yet.

    I’m wondering if this in not a situation where the Australian fire fighters, planes and helicopters have been called into service. But maybe that’s happened when fires have threatened large towns & cities in the U.S., not wilderness areas ?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Vicki — September 1, 2017 @ 6:46 pm

    • I have read about some of your folks coming over to help, but I don’t think they are in this area. We certainly appreciate the help! Who knows, fire crews are badly needed in most of the northwest states.
      The fire has doubled in size in the last two days and spread toward another area that has homes that will be at risk. I was not called out for anything today and was happy to get the rest.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — September 1, 2017 @ 9:30 pm

  5. Well done for taking action, and stay safe! Amazing photos but I hope that the danger for you and others starts to lessen soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Jo Woolf — September 2, 2017 @ 12:50 am

    • I hope so too, but the reality is that the fire situation will go on for at least another month.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 2, 2017 @ 8:09 am

  6. Montucky, thanks for your info & photos about the Sheep Gap fire near Plains, MT. What other websites would you suggest for additional reports about this fire?

    Are the helicopters for the SG fire being staged out of the Plains airport?

    We live a few miles north of Thompson Falls, MT and visit Plains often. We’re currently seeing helicopters flying north/northwest to/from TF to the smaller fires alongside Hwy 200 (near the Trout Creek area).

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by psintfmt — September 2, 2017 @ 1:24 am

    • About the only website that I know of that regularly gives good fire information is InciWeb (Google it or try https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5558/)
      Things are unfolding so rapidly that I don’t really know where all of the helicopters are staged. There are some at Plains for sure because I see them coming out of that direction. There was fire camp established at Plains yesterday. I’ve heard that some are staged at T.F. too. We have been supporting the effort at McCully Ridge/ Big Prairie with some of our resources here.

      The Sheep Gap fire is a difficult one to work on because there is very limited access for equipment to reach the area, the forest is very dense and the landscape very steep. The small helicopters chip away at it, but I’m not sure to what extent a large slurry plane can even attack it.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 2, 2017 @ 8:21 am

  7. I can’t help noticing the irony. While your helicopters are dumping water on fire, helicopters here are plucking people from an excess of water. Oh, how I wish we could magically transport some of our floodwaters to your fires! The photos are magnificent and frightening. The second one, showing that small farm with the fire in the background, is especially touching. I can only imagine the levels of anxiety. And it was interesting to hear about those F350s and F450s. One day, I ran into a fellow from Montana with an F-something that had been outfitted with additional gas and water tanks, and it was a sight to see. I imagine those brush trucks are, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by shoreacres — September 2, 2017 @ 5:46 am

    • The natural weather has become quite unbalanced this year. There is extreme heat in California now too. The east coast has had a very wet summer, you now have all the water and we are in a heat spell and drought.
      A lot of new equipment has added to the fire department since I have been there, so I will have new stuff to check out. The water tender that I drove a lot is still quite new with only 5000 mile on it and there are two new brush trucks, a new structure engine and a new crash truck. This should be fun!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — September 2, 2017 @ 12:18 pm

  8. Oh my goodness! Stay safe out there. Like one of your other commenters, I wish there was a way to dump all of the Houston floodwaters on Montana right now. We have family in Houston, but they are safe and their home was not affected by the hurricane.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Mama's Empty Nest — September 2, 2017 @ 7:44 am

    • Yes, Houston seems to have come through the storm reasonable well, but I see some of the coastal areas have been thoroughly trounced.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 2, 2017 @ 12:20 pm

  9. Whoops, I hit send accidentally and wasn’t finished with my comment. What I was going to say was I hope you too remain safe and not affected by the wildfires.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Mama's Empty Nest — September 2, 2017 @ 7:45 am

  10. What a sad sight indeed ! What caused this forest fire ? The too hot Summer like we had over here and which caused terrible fires in the South of Europe ? I hope everyone could leave these places safely, stay safe yourself too when you work there.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by isathreadsoflife — September 2, 2017 @ 1:15 pm

    • We had an exceptionally hot and dry summer too with practically no rain in the last two months. A Thunder storm came up and started 16 new fires besides this one in one night. There are now hundreds of fires burning in the northwestern part of the U.S. There are now quite a few homes in a “pre-evacuation” status here, meaning they might have to leave at a moment’s notice.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — September 2, 2017 @ 1:48 pm

  11. Wow, y’all are getting pummeled… How did you get the photos of the plane and helicopter? It looks like you are looking down on them. Great shots.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Laura Elizabeth — September 4, 2017 @ 7:37 pm

    • Yes, its’ really rough here at the moment! Fires everywhere. The photos were taken from the ground about 2 miles from the planes. Since then the smoke has been so bad that you can’t see any more and the planes aren’t flying today.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 4, 2017 @ 8:03 pm

      • That’s crazy. I was amazed at the smoke we had here yesterday – I can’t even imagine what it must have been like up there.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Laura Elizabeth — September 4, 2017 @ 10:59 pm

        • It looks like more of the same today. The bad news is that an inversion layer is keeping the smoke on the ground: the good news is that while it’s this smoky the fire doesn’t do much either. A stalemate.

          Like

          Comment by montucky — September 5, 2017 @ 7:26 am

  12. Oh dear how devastating for those people that live there .. Those drops of water from the helicopters look minuscule. Take care .. and stay safe

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Julie@frogpondfarm — September 5, 2017 @ 12:14 am

    • Yes, it’s pretty rough right now. There is heavy smoke now which has stopped the advance of the fire, but when it finally blows out of the area the fires will start going again.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — September 5, 2017 @ 9:22 am


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