Click on the following words to see related information.
News Maps Closures Photos Videos Announcements
The Colt Fire is burning in dense timber with heavy dead and down fuels on the Lolo and Flathead National Forests, approximately 12 miles northwest of Seeley Lake. Fire activity has included torching, spotting, and active consumption of heavy fuels. The Colt Fire was started by lightning on Monday, July 17. Montana DNRC and USFS firefighters responded quickly upon detection on July 18. The fire is on land managed by the Lolo National Forest but under Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation fire protection.
The fire is expected to continue to increase in size with the forecasted weather conditions. In recent days, most of the growth has been on the western side of the fire. The Colt Fire is a full suppression fire and firefighters are creating fuel breaks and containment lines and performing structure protection assessments and preparations. Air resources will be used as needed to slow fire spread and cool down areas of heat.
Brent Olson’s Northern Rockies Complex Incident Management Team 1 assumed command of the fire at 6:00 am on Sunday, July 23. Additional fire personnel and equipment have been arriving and are being integrated into the fire operations. Firefighter and public safety are the number one priority as this fire response transitions into longer duration suppression work.
Evacuations: Evacuations are issued by the Missoula County Sheriff. Evacuation information can be viewed on the Sheriff’s Facebook page
Please be aware that due to the possibility of rapidly changing conditions, an Evacuation Order may be issued with no prior notice or warning. Home and property owners in the surrounding area should remain vigilant and prepared. Have an evacuation plan for family, pets, and livestock; sign up for emergency alerts at Smart911.com; and be familiar with the Missoula County evacuation process and what an order and warning means.
Citizens are encouraged to register for Smart 911 to receive emergency alerts on your cell phone via text message, email and/or phone call. This is a free service. Please click on the Smart911 link to register.
Highway 83 is open at this time. However, for the safety of Firefighters and First Responders, DO NOT STOP along Hwy 83! Due to fire activity and smoke across the roadway, visibility is impaired. There is an increase in traffic including emergency response vehicles, large equipment, and law enforcement.
Emergency Shelters: Please call the Red Cross at (406) 215-1514 if you are evacuated due to the Colt Fire and need shelter.
The Lolo and Flathead National Forests have closed several forest roads, areas, and campgrounds near the fire area for public safety. The list of current closures includes:
-Forest Road 906 (closed at Highway 83)
-Rainy Lake Campground access road 4357 (closed at Highway 83)
-Rainy Lake Campground
-Alva Lake Campground access road (closed by gate at Highway 83)
-Alva Lake Campground
-Lakeside Campground access road (closed by gate at Highway 83)
-Forest Road 646 (closed at the junction of FSR 552; FSR 4354; Forest Road 552 (beyond the turn off to west side Lake Inez access
-Forest Road 5507 and 463 closed beyond the West Side snowmobile trailhead (these roads access the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Marshall Wildlife Management Area and Lake Marshall)
-Temporarily closing the Forest System Road loops of the Clearwater (FSR 4370 and 4353) and Richmond (FSR 667 and 720)
Temporary Flight Restrictions: There is a TFR (FDC 03/0291) in place for air space around the Colt Fire to reduce impacts to fire aviation operators. Fire aviation response is halted or delayed if an unauthorized aircraft enters the TFR. Temporary flight restrictions also apply to unmanned aircraft system (UAS) or drones. If you fly, we can’t!
For the safety of the pilots and public boaters on Seeley Lake and Lindbergh Lake need to stay clear of fire aircraft when they are scooping water from the lakes for firefighting efforts.
A drone incursion occurred on Friday, July 21. Fire managers would like to remind the public that when you fly, we can’t. It is also now a criminal misdemeanor in Montana to fly drones that interfere with fire suppression efforts – with a fine up to $1,500 and the violator has the potential to be charged with firefighting costs.
Smoke: Wildfires can produce a lot of smoke. Affected communities should stay abreast of smoke advisories and conditions at https://www.airnow.gov/
Timber (Litter and Understory)
Timber (Grass and Understory)
Brush (2 feet)
The area is dominated by stands of mixed conifers with grass. A heavy loading of dead and down material with a component of standing dead subalpine fir in the gray-needle phase. A ladder fuel of moss, often called Old Mans Beard or Goats Beard, allows fire to transition from surface to crown. The current ERC-Y is slightly above the 90th percentile. The 100-hr and 1000-hr fuels are currently at around 9% and contributing to fire intensity and consumption. Live fuel moisture in brush is still high enough to keep fire behavior moderated.
Single Tree Torching
Active burning in dead and down 1,000-hr fuels with 40 tons/acre fuel loads being common. Fire spread remains backing in surface fuels with some single tree torching in subalpine fir. Smoldering and creeping fire behavior was observed in western larch/Douglas-fir forest types and areas dominated by beargrass. Smoke from other fires in the region is having a suppressive effect on fire behavior.
48 hours: Thunderstorms expected to arrive Friday with the potential for gusty outflow winds and lightning.
12 hours: Fire activity expected to increase throughout the day as warm temps and low RH, along with northerly winds a concern. Single tree torching with spot fire development is likely.
12 hours: Low relative humidity and moderate temperatures will result in active fire behavior. With fine dead fuel moistures at 3
24 hours: Increased cloud cover and cooler temperatures will reduce the potential for fire spread on Friday. Northwest winds will limit most fire spread to backing along the western flank. Single tree torching may occur, but spotting should be minimal.
48 hours: Cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity will significantly limit fire movement in fine dead fuels. Heavy fuels will continue to burn and will be the most likely source of fire spread. Spotting should be minimal. Winds will shift to out of the east shifting the primary direction of fire spread.
72 hours: Sunday will be the peak of the cooling trend with lower maximum temperatures and high relative humidity. This will suppress fire behavior substantially, though expect burning to persist in heavy fuels. Surface fire spread should be limited to creeping and smoldering activity. Expect wind to shift to out of the south changing the primary direction of fire spread.
72 hours: Fire growth will remain minimal through the weekend but will begin to increase Monday. Fire behavior will remain low and slow in surface fuels, but more heat will be present in heavy fuels. Winds will shift back out of the west.
© 2023 Fire, Weather & Avalanche Center