UPDATE, 6:30 p.m. July 16: According to Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest Public Affairs Officer Chiara Cipriano, firefighters have managed so far 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 was burning in a "thick lodgepole pine forest with dead and down beetle killed trees," and that the cause of the fire is still under investigation. 

Bud Siderits, the chief of Jefferson City Volunteer Fire Department, 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 has 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. 

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 this morning—had been released from the fire by Friday evening.

Cipriano said that Forest Service firefighters were still working to contain the blaze, and that there was not an estimate for containment or control of the fire as of 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 today's 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. 

The Park Lake Campground and Picnic Area both remain closed. No evacuation or pre-evacuation orders have been issued. 


UPDATE, 1:30 p.m. July 16: Jefferson City Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bud Siderits wrote in an email that the fire is burning "on [a] steep slope about 3/4 mile northeast of Park Lake." 

A Facebook post from the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, which the fire is located within, stated on Friday morning that the fire was about 3–5 acres. An updated post from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office around 1:20 p.m. stated that "the fire is holding at around 3 acres."

Siderits wrote that personnel and resources from Clancy, Montana City, Jefferson City, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, the U.S. Forest Service, and contracted helicopters were working the fire. 


Original story, 11:30 a.m. July 16:

Firefighters from multiple agencies are responding to a wildfire reported this morning near Park Lake, about 5 miles west of Clancy. 

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 are responding to what he called a "small" fire. As of 11:20 a.m., he said there were no residential evacuations in place but that the Park Lake Campground had been cleared and closed because of the number of firefighting resources in the area. 

Information about the exact size of the fire, or how it was ignited, was not immediately available around noon Friday.

A post on the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Facebook page said the fire was north of Park Lake. An interactive map maintained by the DNRC that shows active and past wildfires showed a fire near Park Lake reported today. 

The Sheriff's Office post asked people to avoid the area.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available. 

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