The Sheep Fire, part of the Thompson-Divide Complex, blew up on Thursday, prompting the closure of an 8-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 2 and evacuation notices for more than 100 homes and businesses. However, NBC Montana reports clouds and heavy smoke made the Sheep Fire less active on Friday. Winds were significant, especially on ridges.

Construction of a shaded fuel break using heavy equipment on the west-side of the BNSF railroad tracks from Sheep Creek to Dickey Creek drainages started Aug. 26. This activity continued today around Essex and efforts were made to remove the logs and slash that have accumulated. The objective of this fuel break is to reduce the fuel component and space the tree crowns to limit fire spread and torching. It will also provide a safe location for firefighters if it is decided to burn out fuels in advance of the fire front.

Helicopters were actively used to drop water on the fire until later in the day due to a lack of adequate visibility. Structural protection in Essex will continue.

A night shift continues to monitor fire movement and patrol the Essex area and Walton compound for any encroaching fire activity.

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The Thompson-Divide Complex is comprised of the Sheep and Granite Fires on the Flathead National Forest and the Thompson Fire in Glacier National Park. The Sheep fire is the incident priority as it is approaching US Hwy. 2 and the BNSF railway and is threatening the community of Essex.

On August 27, Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry ordered a mandatory evacuation of Essex and the surrounding area because of increased activity on the Sheep Fire. For more information on the evacuation, call the Flathead County Office of Emergency Services at 406-758-2111. The American Red Cross has established an evacuation center at West Glacier Elementary School at 160 Old Bridge Rd (800-272-6668).

Highway 2 is closed between mileposts 176.8 at Schellinger and 185 at Bear Creek. BNSF trains and Amtrak are running intermittently. Call 511 or visit http://www.mdt.mt.gov/travinfo/alerts.shtml for current road status. For more information on Amtrak call 1-(800) 872-7245.

Stage II Fire Restrictions are in effect for northwestern Montana. Visit http://svc.mt.gov/deq/todaysair/for air quality info.

Closures are in effect for some trails in the vicinity of the fires for Glacier National Park and Flathead National Forest. For more info, please see the Glacier NP page http://www.nps.gov/glac/upload/8-22-15-closures-web.pdf or for Flathead NF call Hungry Horse Ranger District (406) 387-3800. The area closures around the Granite and Sheep Fires in the Great Bear Wilderness were expanded today by the Hungry Horse Ranger District. The order and map are posted athttp://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/article/4468/28364/.

A Red Flag Warning has been issued for Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. for gusty winds and low humidity. These conditions may cause active fire behavior including short crown runs and short range spotting on all three fires in the complex. Weather conditions will be changing this weekend. A cold front is approaching late Saturday afternoon with maximum temperatures expected to drop 10-15 degrees by Sunday. In advance of this front, winds are expected to increase on Saturday with gusts of 25-35 mph on ridge tops. Humidity will increase with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms as this front passes through the area.

Sheep Fire, Flathead National Forest Link to http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4468/

Structures At Risk: 200+ structures, BNSF has several wooden snowsheds and 1 wooden trestle, utilities infrastructure
Approximate Size: 1,595 acres Containment: 0% Structures Lost: None

Fire Update: The Sheep Fire is on the Flathead National Forest and burning in very steep terrain with limited access. The fire is about 1 mile south of Essex and about 1/8 mile from the train tracks between Tank Creek and MacDonald Creek. The fire has not crossed Sheep Creek to the south. Because of clouds and heavy smoke, the fire was less active today. Winds were significant, especially on ridges. Construction of a shaded fuel break using heavy equipment on the west-side of the BNSF railroad tracks from Sheep Creek to Dickey Creek drainages started Aug. 26. This activity continued today around Essex and efforts were made to remove the logs and slash that have accumulated. The objective of this fuel break is to reduce the fuel component and space the tree crowns to limit fire spread and torching. It will also provide a safe location for firefighters if it is decided to burn out fuels in advance of the fire front. Helicopters were actively used to drop water on the fire until later in the day due to a lack of adequate visibility. Structural protection in Essex will continue. A night shift continues to monitor fire movement and patrol the Essex area and Walton compound for any encroaching fire activity.

Granite Fire, Flathead National Forest Link to http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4468/

Approximate Size: 701 acres Containment: 0%

Fire Update: The Granite Fire is burning in very steep terrain in a mixed conifer forest. The fire is located west of Marias Pass and south of Hwy. 2. The fire started in the Great Bear Wilderness and has moved north out of the Wilderness. Yesterday, the fire moved to the west along a ridge between 2 unnamed tributaries of Granite Creek and northwest toward Patrol Ridge. A crew was flown into the Granite Cabin to put in structure protection measures, including wrapping and sprinkler placement. Crews have implemented structural protection measures on other facilities in the fire’s vicinity. Crews have established locations for fireline construction and possible shaded fuel break opportunities when sufficient crews become available for their construction. Helicopter bucket drops are being used to help check fire spread.

Thompson Fire, Glacier National Park Link to http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4468/

Approximate Size: 17,857 acres Containment: 20%

Structures At Risk: 2 historic cabins Structures Lost: None

Fire Update: The Thompson Fire is located in remote south-central backcountry of Glacier National Park about 15 miles east of the West Glacier entrance in the Thompson and Nyack drainages west of the Continental Divide. Increased fire activity was seen within the fire perimeter south of Tinkham Mountain today. Firefighters in the Nyack Creek drainage finished burnout and mop up operations in the northwest corner (Division A) of the fire and were flown out yesterday. Pumps and hose lay are in place in case a future need arises and the fire will be monitored by air.

Most of Glacier National Park is unaffected by this wildfire complex and is available for recreational use. Limited backcountry closures are in place. For more specific visitor information, please see the website http://www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm.

The Thompson Fire has not impacted park roads. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is open.

For information on the Reynolds Creek fire, please visit http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4405/#

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