Wildfire Incident Information
23% contained
Fire Status
Last Updated
2 months ago
Fire Start
Tuesday, July 18, 2023 12:59 AM MDT
Incident #
timber, slash, brush
Dispatch Notes
CLW Out | Contain: 09/01/2023 15:00 | Control: 10/25/2023 09:25 | Out: 10/30/2023 10:00
Primary Fire Agency

Department of Natural Resources and Conservation — Southwestern Land Office

Current Weather

Fire Growth Potential

Fire Weather Forecast

Incident Overview

Inciweb information was updated: 11 months ago

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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)

-Lakeside Campground

-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/



Basic Incident Details

Last Updated
Fri, Aug 4, 2023 11:46 AM UTC
Incident Type
Fire Discovered
Tue, Jul 18, 2023 6:59 AM UTC
12 miles northwest of Seeley Lake
Incident Commander
Brent Olson, ICCI Northern Rockies Complex Incident Management Team 1
Incident Description
Thick, heavy dead and down timber
47.353055555556, -113.66555555556

Current Situation

Total Personnel
7,179 Acres
Estimated Containment
Thursday, September 28, 2023 12:00 PM MDT
Fuels Involved

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.

Significant Events



Single Tree Torching

Short-range Spotting

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.

Planned Outlook

Planned Actions
Continue primary and alternate control line construction. Continue the assessment and preparation of structures. Continue the reconnaissance of potential control lines.

Division A (east side of fire) -  Continue mop-up operations securing the fire edge from Drop Point 2 to Drop Point 14. Coordinate mop-up and holding with adjacent divisions.
Division E (south side of fire) - Construct handline above West Fork Clearwater River west to the E/K division break. Secure and hold direct line from West Fork Clearwater River drainage to radio tower. Secure containment lines from the BNSF tower to the 646 road. Improve existing road system for access points for crew insertion to support line construction in West Fork Clearwater River drainage.

Division K (southwest side of fire) -  Prep, fire and hold wedge of unburned fuel between 9570 Road, Drop Point 63 and fire edge. Continue mechanical line construction from K/N division break to Sunset Ridge in preparation of firing operation when conditions are favorable. Assess potential for direct line construction on fire edge near Sunset Ridge in coordination with Division E (south side of fire).

Division N (west side of fire) - Coordinate with Division K (southwest side of fire) to utilize the existing road system and constructed mechanical line to progress indirectly to the 9570 road. Prepare mechanical line from Drop Point 61 to Drop Point 62 for planned firing operation in coordination with Divisions T (northwest) and Kilo (southwest).

Division T (northwest side of fire) - Mop up fire edge from 91226 road to Beaver Lake. Utilize crews to prep dozer line from 91162 road to 9658 road. Support Division N (west) with heavy equipment as needed.

Division W (north side of fire)- Secure fire edge with direct line from Colt Lake to T/W Division break. Mop-up and secure burnout and spot fires from DP14 to Colt Lake.
Structure Protection Group - Prepare values at risk in all closure areas and evacuation types from Lindbergh Lake to Lake Inez as directed by Operations. Continue to patrol and scout the Highway 83 corridor for any new fire activity. Continue Lindbergh Lake structure assessment. Support Division as needed or requested.

Lindbergh Group - Recon and assess values at risk in the Lindbergh Lake and Beaver Creek areas. Support all suppression activities as directed by Operations.

Security - Patrol fire closure areas, equipment staging areas, ICP and Base Camp. Conduct law enforcement and security functions as applicable.
Projected Incident Activity

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.

Acreage by Protection:

1,047 Acres on Flathead National Forest (MT-FNF)
1,237 Acres on Lolo National Forest (MT-LNF)
4,814 Acres on Southwestern Land Office (MT-SWS)

Acreage by Ownership:
1236 ACRES on Flathead National Forest (MT-FNF)
5454 ACRES on Lolo National Forest (MT-LNF)
408 ACRES on Southwestern Land Office (MT-SWS)