Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Tim Leeds 

East Fork Fire evacuations lifted

Cause still under investigation


September 12, 2017

Fire officials said this morning that work is progressing well on the East Fork Fire, one day after evacuations were lifted by the Hill County Sheriff’s Office.

Theron Oats, fire management officer for the Chippewa Cree Tribe’s Forestry Department at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, said things were relatively quiet this morning.

“They’re doing good,” he said. “It looks like they have a handle on it. Still doing a little mop up.”

Oats said the investigation of the fire, which started Aug. 27 near the East Fork Reservoir on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, is ongoing. The cause of the fire, and whether it was human-caused, is not yet determined, he said.

A flare-up near the intersection of Sucker Creek and Clear Creek roads Friday burned close to another 400 acres before firefighters contained it, leaving the fire now listed at 21,896 acres and 85 percent contained, as of 9:46 p.m. Monday.

Don Pyrah of the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and the incident commander said the night shift crews reported minimal activity, and cooler weather and a forecast of rain will help with the efforts.

“Things are looking good today,” he said.

He said the expected rain — National Weather Service predicts for Havre a chance of rain Wednesday and rain likely Thursday and Thursday night, with a chance of rain continuing through Saturday morning — will help but probably not end the fire danger. Interior pockets will likely remain hot for some time, he said.

“An inch of rain won’t make it all go away,” Pyrah said. “It will help.”

As the fire activity dwindled, the Hill County Sheriff’s Office Monday lifted some restrictions, although Beaver Creek Park still is closed to recreation and side roads on the park are closed to general traffic.

Cabin owners are allowed access to their cabins from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to check on, clean and maintain their cabins.

Power is still off in some areas and local power companies are working to restore service, the release announcing the lifting of evacuations said.

As of noon Monday, Montana Secondary Highway 234, Sucker Creek Road and Taylor Road were open to all public access.

The sheriff’s office will continue to have increased patrols in the area and people are warned to use caution in the area of the fire and to stay alert for spot fires. Smoldering debris remains in the containment area, the release said.

People also need to be aware of emergency vehicles and heavy equipment in the area of the fire, the release said. People who have questions can call the East Fork Command post 395-8413 or the Hill County Sheriff’s Office at 265-2512, the release added.


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