ZORTMAN, MT – The July Fire began July 3, and quickly grew in size and complexity, threatening the towns of Zortman and Landusky, Mont.
The Northern Rockies Western Montana Incident Management Team (Connell) was mobilized to the fire to assist local resources with fire suppression efforts. The cause of the fire is currently being investigated. Currently, the fire has reached 10,622 acres and is 50% contained. There are 438 personnel working to suppress this fire. Twelve aircraft are assigned to the fire, including five helicopters. At press time, no serious injuries were reported.
The community and structure protection efforts of the fire management team have been very successful. No homes were destroyed by the fire but a total of five outbuilding or sheds were damaged. Fire suppression operations were aided by the pre-fire season work that was done by the community residents as well as multiple wildland urban interface fuels reduction treatments completed by BLM. The fuels mitigation work that was done, as well as the fire-wise residences, provided safer working conditions that allowed firefighters to protect structures and aggressively suppress the fire.
U.S. Congressman Greg Gianforte and Fort Belknap Indian Community Council President Mark Azure visited the fire July 8. Accompanying them, were Nate Adams, a representative for U.S. Senator Steve Daines, and BLM Montana/Dakotas Acting State Director Jon Raby. Other attendees included the Phillips County Commissioners, tribal members, and stakeholders. The group met at Fire Camp and received a briefing from the July Fire Incident Commander Rick Connell. They then traveled to Landusky where they spoke with residents and witnessed the effects of the fire on the community.
A Red Flag Warning is in effect today starting at noon and continuing through the evening. The weather is expected to remain hot and dry, with possible thunderstorms this afternoon. These thunderstorms may produce strong, erratic winds and lightning with a slight chance of rain. Aerial resources, hand crews, and heavy equipment resources will continue to focus on holding and strengthening fireline and adding to contingency lines. The contingency lines are being created as an additional protection measure between the fire and the towns of Hays and Lodgepole. Both direct and indirect fire suppression tactics are being used with the intention of full perimeter control and protection of the Zortman, Landusky, Lodgepole, and Hays communities.
Questions and concerns can be directed to the Public Information Officers with the Incident Management Team. The information officers can be reached at (406) 673-3910 or at JulyFire2017@gmail.com. Questions can also be answered in-person at the July Fire Camp on 7-Mile Road just south of Zortman, MT. Inciweb (https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5313/) and Facebook can also provide updates as information is received from the fireline throughout the day.