UPDATE, 2:35 p.m. Aug. 2:
Brief but heavy rainfall on Monday slowed progress of the Gatlin Gulch Fire about 5 miles southwest of Boulder, and crews are responding to new fires likely sparked by lightning from the storm system that brought the rain.
According to Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest Public Affairs Officer Catherine McRae, the area around the Gatlin Gulch Fire received about .02 inches of moisture.
"We did see some positive effects from even just that little bit," she said in an interview on Monday.
She said that crews were continuing to reinforce fire lines and assess structure protection in the area, and that aerial resources continue to fight the fire.
Bad weather has prevented aerial infrared mapping of the fire, she said, meaning that the 60-acre estimate of the fire's size was calculated by the perimeter of the fire and likely included unburned area within the fire's boundary. An infrared mapping flight will be performed when conditions permit, she said.
"We did not see a lot of significant growth overnight," McRae said, adding that, once infrared mapping is performed, "we’re actually going to see less acreage than we’re reporting now."
She said that a type-three incident team from outside the forest will take command of the fire beginning on Wednesday, following a briefing on Monday afternoon and shadowing the Beaverhead-Deerlodge team on Tuesday.
"That means that our guys are available the be the initial attack response."
And the team will likely stay busy. McRae said that as of 1:30 p.m. on Monday, seven new fire starts were reported in the forest in the past 12 hours.
At least one new fire is in Jefferson County, and more were reported Monday afternoon.
Crews are responding to a wildfire reported north of Homestake Pass in southwest Jefferson County, about 2 miles north of Interstate 90, just west of Camp Caroline Road.
The fire was reported at 12:34 p.m. and estimated at 0.5 acres, burning in heavy dead and downed timber, according to preliminary information from the forest's Dillon dispatch center.
"We haven’t even gotten out there yet. We’re on our way to the start," she said. "We moved on it at 1:15 p.m."
The Helena Interagency Dispatch Center received a report of a fire following a lightning strike on Strawberry Butte in northern Jefferson County east of Clancy at 2:34 p.m.
McRae said that the Haystack Fire—reported on Saturday around the top of Haystack Mountain, east of Elk Park, between U.S. Interstate 15 and Whitetail Reservoir, according to an interactive map maintained by the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation—was determined to be about .01 acres and atop a knob, and had "low spread potential."
McRae thanked the Boulder community for its support as crews work the Gatlin Gulch Fire and other nearby incidents, noting that the Tribal Nations Response Team Pima Agency crew was eager to return to Boulder after mandated rest beginning on Tuesday.
"I thought that said a lot about how the community of Boulder is receiving them," she said, adding that she has received messages from locals offering assistance to support firefighters.
Crews working the Gatlin Gulch Fire are based at the county fairground south of Boulder and enjoyed sharing the facility with a wedding on Saturday, she said, and firefighters "greatly appreciate the public support."
UPDATE, noon Aug. 1:
Gatlin Gulch Fire at 60 acres, new fires reported
The Gatlin Gulch Fire southwest of Boulder grew to about 60 acres by Sunday morning and a new fire was reported around the top of Haystack Mountain, east of Elk Park, between U.S. Interstate 15 and Whitetail Reservoir.
Further information about the Haystack fire, which was reported on Saturday, according to an interactive map maintained by the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation that shows active and past wildfires, was not immediately available on Sunday morning, but a Facebook post from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office said that resources from the Gatlin Gulch Fire response would be used on Haystack Mountain. The post called the incident a "very small confirmed fire start."
According to InciWeb, a national interagency database of wildfires, about 61 personnel were fighting the Gatlin Gulch Fire as of Sunday morning, and the fire was burning in dead and standing timber and logging slash.
A post from the Sheriff's Office said that "most of the work today will concentrate on constructing indirect fire line near the northern and western flanks of the fire," and that the Beaverhead-Deerlodge-Deerlodge National Forest would likely issue an area closure in the region of the fire. Aircraft continue to fight the fire.
UPDATE, 2 p.m. July 31:
Gatlin Gulch Fire grows overnight
A wildfire near the Elder Creek Picnic Area along the Little Boulder River grew overnight to about 40 acres in size and continues to burn on all sides.
The fire, named the Gatlin Gulch Fire, was reported on Friday and is burning in challenging terrain for ground-based firefighting, according to the Doug Dodge, Jefferson County's fire warden and disaster and emergency services coordinator, and firefighting is currently being conducted primarily with aircraft.
An update from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office on Saturday morning said that the fire grew from its original 3–5 acres to about 40 acres overnight from Friday into Saturday, and that a type-three incident commander from the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest assumed command of the fire.
Ground crews continued to assess seasonal cabins in the area for structure protection, the update stated, and although the fire is burning in all directions, efforts to slow its growth are concentrated on the northern and western sides, according to the update.
No evacuations were in place as of midday Saturday, and Little Boulder Road remained closed at the national forest boundary.
UPDATE, 7:30 p.m. July 30:
According to Doug Dodge, Jefferson County's fire warden and disaster and emergency services coordinator, the fire is burning "in extremely rugged and dangerous ground," and primary attack was being performed by aircraft.
Air tankers were flying over Boulder on Friday evening.
Dodge said that a federal type-three indecent commander would be overseeing firefighting operations. The fire is within the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. A type-three incident is in the middle of the federal government's five-level classification system for incident response; type-one incidents are the most severe.
Little Boulder Road is currently closed, he said, but no evacuations were in place as of Friday evening.
A Facebook post from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office on Friday evening said that the fire was about 5–10 acres in size and growing, and that some seasonal cabins in the area were being assessed for structure protection. The post clarified that Little Boulder Road is closed at the national forest boundary and that further closures were expected to the west and south of the fire, including in the upper reaches of Galena Gulch. Aircraft and firefighting personnel may use the county's fairground south of Boulder, the post said.
UPDATE, 4:50 p.m. July 30:
Bull Mountain Rural Volunteer Fire Department Chief Cory Kirsch, who is also a Jefferson County commissioner, said in a phone call Friday afternoon that local volunteer crews from Boulder, Basin and Jefferson City responded around 2:01 p.m. to the fire, which he said was about 1 mile off of Little Boulder Road to the north, between that road and North Fork Road.
He said that crews found a 3–5-acre fire with "torching and spotting."
As of Friday afternoon, he said, the U.S. Forest Service had taken over firefighting efforts with assistance from a Montana Department of Natural Resources helicopter, and local crews had been released.
Original story, 4:08 p.m. July 30:
Fire burning near Little Boulder River
A wildfire is burning about 5 miles southwest of Boulder along the Little Boulder River, near Elder Creek.
The Elder Creek Campground on Little Boulder Road was closed for firefighting activity on Friday afternoon, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office stated in a Facebook post at 3:14 p.m. The post said that there was a fire in the area.
"Information is limited while crews are assessing the situation," the post stated. "Please stay away from the area and yield to emergency crews."
A smoke plume was visible from town on Friday afternoon.
An interactive map maintained by the DNRC that shows active and past wildfires showed a fire near Gatlin Gulch discovered today.
Information about the size and cause of the fire was not immediately available on Friday afternoon.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.