MADISON COUNTY — It’s one of the fastest-growing wildland fires in Southwest Montana and more crews are working to keep the Goose Fire south of Ennis from spreading far enough to damage homes.
It’s a situation that began back on the first of July.
Fast-forward to Tuesday, July 13, the Goose Fire has burned more than 3,800 acres, just 32 miles southeast of Ennis, closing down several campgrounds and raising questions from the community.
Those actively fighting that fire met with the community via the Goose Fire Facebook page to catch them up to speed.
“The exceptionally dry conditions, the very hot conditions over four-day windows but we don’t see those ending anytime soon,” says Dan Morrison, Goose Fire incident meteorologist from the National Weather Service.
“It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen much moisture and you can tell that out there where they are dozing, it is powder dry,” says Brenda Wilmore, fire behaviorist. “We’re in for a long haul.”
“Dry” and “long haul:” key words focused on dozens of times by emergency management and fire fighting crews over the course of a virtual hour…
“We’re setting new records every day for dryness,” Wilmore says.
“This incident is going to be a long-term event, meaning it’s going to be out here on the landscape for the duration of our fire season,” says Joe Sampson, incident command for Northern Rockies Incident Management Team 5.
In just four days, the Goose Fire has spiderwebbed its way from 300 acres to more than 3,800, stemming from what Northern Rockies Incident Management Team 5 believes was a bolt of lightning.
With no end in sight of record-setting dryness that is around a month early, each speaker says this is far from over..
“We’re seeing mid-season fire behavior in the early part of the season, is the bottom line here,” Wilmore says.
Nearly 200 personnel, working at a fire, that's been prone to expanding by around 1,000 more acres each night for two nights in a row, creeping along Hidden Lake and toward the Hoodoo Pass.
Several campgrounds are closed until either the fire is out or August 31, whichever happens first, one of several situations laying on the pressure.
“We actively have all of our incident management teams engaged on incidents across North Idaho, Central Idaho and Montana,” Sampson says. “You can imagine that resources are stretched thin.”
Wilmore also says the mixture of dry pine trees and needles and sage grass throughout the area is making the Goose Fire complicated.
To put it into perspective, the team adds the area hasn’t seen ground-wetting rain since May 26, nearly two months.
While no structures are threatened yet, Madison County emergency management director Joe Brummel says the possibility is becoming more likely.
“We came up with a couple of trigger points to where if something were to happen, then we’d have plenty of time to react not only for a warning but in the event of a full-scale evacuation,” Brummel says.
Both officials remind the public that this is not the last public meeting and for the latest news to follow the Goose Fire Facebook page.