2017 Montana wildfires

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2017 Montana wildfires
2017 08 28-
The Alice Creek Fire on August 28, 2017
Total area438,000 acres (177,000 ha) (early September)[1]
Date(s)June – September, 2017
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The 2017 Montana wildfires were a series of wildfires that burned over the course of 2017.


The 2017 fire season in Montana was exacerbated by drought conditions and as of September 7, 2017, there were 21 large, active fires that had consumed over 438,000 acres (177,000 ha).[1] By September 20, after rain and snow had significantly slowed most fire growth, the overall burned acreage in Montana was estimated at 1,295,959 acres (524,456 ha).[3]

Two fires alone burned over 100,000 acres (40,000 ha) each. The first was the Lodgepole Complex Fire in eastern Montana, which started on July 19 and burned over 270,000 acres (110,000 ha) before it was declared 93% contained two weeks later.[4] The second was the Rice Ridge Fire, which was identified as the nation's top wildfire priority,[5] after it rapidly expanded from about 40,000 acres (16,000 ha) to over 100,000 acres (40,000 ha) on September 3, 2017.[6] Approximately 48 fires were burning as of September 12, 2017, though some were under 1,000 acres (400 ha).[7] The fire season began a month earlier than usual and months of June through August were the hottest and driest on record for Montana.[1] On July 29, Montana had 11.87 percent of its total land listed as in exceptional drought, the largest percentage in the nation.[8] In mid September, the eastern portion of the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park was closed by ice and snow in the Rockies, while simultaneously the western portion was closed due to wildfires.[9]

Federal disaster assistance was requested by Governor Steve Bullock and FEMA granted funds for the Rice Ridge Fire near Seeley Lake, Montana, Alice Creek Fire near Lincoln, Montana, West Fork Fire near Libby, Montana, Highway 200 Complex in Sanders County, Montana and the Moose Peak Fire.[10][11] Over $280 million had been spent on firefighting by early August.[12] A number of areas were subjected to evacuation orders, including most of the town of Seeley Lake.[13] By September 18, 2017, rain and snow had significantly slowed most fires, except for parts of far northwestern Montana, near Libby, where the West Fork Fire required some evacuation orders to remain in effect.[14]

List of fires[edit]

Major fires of 2017 that consumed over 1,000 acres (400 ha) include the following (as of September 13, 2017):[7]

Over 100,000 acres (40,000 ha)

The Rice Ridge Fire became the nation's number one fire priority in early September when it blew up to cover over 100,000 acres (40,000 ha).

Over 50,000 acres (20,000 ha)

At an interagency and departmental briefing on Montana fires: (from left) U.S. Congressman Greg Gianforte, U.S. Senator Steve Daines, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke.

Over 20,000 acres (8,100 ha)

Over 10,000 acres (4,000 ha)

The historic Sperry Chalet was nearly destroyed by the Sprague Fire

Over 1,000 acres (400 ha)

True-color satellite image showing the Western states and provinces with smoke
NASA satellite image from September 5, 2017, showing fires in the Cascades and Rockies and smoke as far east as the Great Lakes

Further reading[edit]

  • KPAX/KAJ Special Report: Montana Wildfires 2017, KPAX-TV, September 23, 2017, archived from the original on September 25, 2017, retrieved September 25, 2017


  1. ^ a b c Fortin, Jacey (September 7, 2017). "Montana Battles Wildfires Amid a Severe Drought". The New York Times. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  2. ^ David Erickson (August 2, 2017), "Firefighter killed on Lolo Peak fire", The Missoulian
  3. ^ KPAX/KAJ Special Report: Montana Wildfires 2017, KPAX-TV, September 23, 2017, archived from the original on September 25, 2017, retrieved September 25, 2017
  4. ^ USDA Forest Service, Fire and Aviation Management. "Lodgepole Complex". InciWeb. Retrieved September 12, 2017.
  5. ^ Maritsa Georgiou (September 3, 2017), Rice Ridge Fire now top priority fire in nation: New evacuation orders issued, NBC Montana
  6. ^ Montana's Rice Ridge Fire Balloons to Over 100,000 Acres, MSN
  7. ^ a b "Montana fire incidents". InciWeb. USDA / United States Forest Service, Fire and Aviation Management. Archived from the original on September 12, 2017. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  8. ^ Schlecht, Jenny (July 31, 2017). "Damage evaluated at Lodgepole Complex Fire". AgWeek. Retrieved September 12, 2017.
  9. ^ Phil McCausland (September 16, 2017), Montana Hopes for Ice to Fight Wildfire Amid Historic, Costly Blaze, NBC News
  10. ^ "Montana wildfire roundup: Fleeing fire, help on the way and finding strength through loss". The Billings Gazette. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  11. ^ Plank, Thomas (September 12, 2017). "Rain! It's forecast for week's end, along with cold". Missoulian. Retrieved September 12, 2017.
  12. ^ Montana's 2017 fire season tops 1 million acres burned, Missoula, Montana: KPAX-TV, September 6, 2017, archived from the original on September 12, 2017, retrieved September 11, 2017
  13. ^ Plank, Thomas (September 12, 2017). "Seeley Lake evacuation orders lifted; Lolo Peak warnings removed". Missoulian. Retrieved September 12, 2017.
  14. ^ Gabbert, Bill (September 18, 2017). "Rain and snow affect some fires in the Northwest — but not all". Wildfire Today. Retrieved September 26, 2017.

External links[edit]