The Park Lake Campground and Picnic Area 5 miles west of Clancy reopened to the public on Monday as firefighters continued to mop-up a small wildfire that ignited near Park Lake on July 16.
According to Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest Public Affairs Officer Chiara Cipriano, firefighters managed to limit the Park Lake fire to about 3–5 acres.
"The helicopters, there’s four of them working together … are holding it steady at that 3–5 [acre] range," she said in a call Friday evening.
In a press release on Friday afternoon, Helena District Ranger Kathy Bushnell said that "so far, the fire behavior has moderated which has aided efforts on the ground."
A webpage for the Park Lake fire on InciWeb, a national interagency database of wildfires, said the fire burned in a "thick lodgepole pine forest with dead and down beetle killed trees," and that the cause of the fire was still under investigation this week. It said that the campground and picnic area were closed Friday and over the weekend because of the number of firefighting resources and personnel in the area. An update on Monday said that firefighters were conducting mop-up operations to ensure the fire was fully extinguished.
According to Jefferson County Fire Warden and Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Doug Dodge, crews from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, the U.S. Forest Service, and from local volunteer departments responded Friday morning to what he called a "small" fire.
The fire, which was "on [a] steep slope about 3/4 mile northeast of Park Lake," according to Bud Siderits, the chief of Jefferson City Volunteer Fire Department, did not cause any evacuations. Siderits said that the fire was burning in "difficult terrain, steep, besides so many dead standing trees," and that the fire was in an area with "lots of dead spruce and fir." Though the cause had not yet been determined, he said it was possible the fire was ignited by a lightning strike overnight from Thursday into Friday, when storms passed through the area. He said that continuous drops of water via helicopter aided in initial attack on Friday.
Cipriano, Montana City Volunteer Fire Department Chief Lyn Stimpson and an update from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office all separately stated that local volunteer agencies—the first to respond to the incident Friday morning—had been released from the fire by Friday evening.
Stimpson, who said that Montana City, Clancy and Jefferson City volunteer fire departments responded simultaneously to the fire at 9:15 a.m., said that the initial response of various agencies at the local, state and federal level illustrated "how well our local agencies cooperate together. [They] really work well together and this incident was a great example of that."
Stimpson said that the fire was initially reported by someone camping at Park Lake who saw smoke.