CODY – The Robertson Draw Fire north of Clark expanded to 29,474 acres as of Sunday night with 45-percent containment reported. Sunday morning marked the first time since the fire started that any containment had been reported.
According to the Custer Gallatin National Forest, containment is defined as firefighters having constructed or used a line along the fire’s edge to stop fire spread.
Fire lines have been developed on the east, south and northwest sides of the fire. Efforts are continuing to connect the northwest fire line all the way to near US 212.
Aircraft have been busy as well, making water drops on Saturday with a fixed wing CL-415 water scooper aircraft used to make water drops on the southern part of the fire.
No part of the burn has come closer than about .6 miles from the Wyoming border, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
The vast majority of the fire activity continues to be in the upper reaches of the Grove Creek and Line Creek drainages.
The Custer Gallatin National Forest initially reported the fire on June 13, burning eight miles north of Clark and less than one mile inside the Montana border on the eastern face of the Beartooth Range.
Fire staff reported successful mitigation later in the week as staff worked to push the fire into a previously burned area to the south. Firefighters worked south of Bearcreek in order to secure a fire perimeter around the town.
Multiple staff reported that fuel conditions were more akin to what is expected in July or August.
Carbon County, Mont., Sheriff Josh McQuillan reported during a public information meeting Wednesday night that eight major structures and 13 secondary structures or buildings were lost in the Robertson Draw Fire. According to Amy Hyfield, a public information officer with Red Lodge Fire and Rescue, all of the structures burned were in the Gold Creek Road area.
Engines and firefighters from the Billings Type 2 Veterans Crew, Pilot Peak Wildland Fire Module from Cody, two Red Lodge Fire Department engines and an engine from the Beartooth Ranger District are fighting the fire with the Type 2 Northern Rockies Incident Management leading the fire management. Two helicopters and air tankers are doing water drops on the burn daily.
As part of the firefighting effort to suppress the fire, Buffalo Bill State Park staff reported the western section of the Buffalo Bill Reservoir has been closed to fishing and boat traffic to allow for aircraft to land and scoop water.
There are now 328 personnel working on the fire that is occupying around 46 square miles.
Despite the fire being increasingly contained, Robertson Draw Public Information Officer Jacob Welsh said the number of staff fighting the burn has continued increasing because it often takes time for responders to the fire area to report from locations throughout the West.
“Just because we have containment, it doesn’t mean the work is over,” he said.
Welsh said firefighters will continue to make fire lines and mop up around homes, a process involving extinguishing burning materials and vegetation around the fire line.
The fire has been determined to be human-caused, and McQuillan revealed that a suspect has been identified for possible involvement in causing the fire. That individual is not in custody at this time, and McQuillan said the Carbon County attorney will decide what, if any, charges will be pressed by the end of next week.
Evacuation warnings have been lifted for all areas except the area south of Red Lodge along the east side of US 212.
A total of 573 residences were checked for evacuation, with 248 people contacted last Tuesday and Wednesday, as the fire grew from 200 acres Monday to 21,000 on Wednesday.
A number of trails, campgrounds and creeks surrounding the fire in Montana have been evacuated and a northern section of Line Creek Road in Wyoming is closed. Areas east of the Beartooth Highway to the Beartooth Front to the state border are under closure. The Beartooth Highway is still fully open, but all campgrounds from Red Lodge to the Lake Fork of Rock Creek are closed.
A closure order is also in effect on all BLM lands lying west of MT 72, south of MT 308, and east of US 212 in Carbon County.
Staff have performed mitigation efforts along the south side of the burn to protect Clark, but fire staff identified Bearcreek as being at a greater risk.
The fire is anticipated to last from a couple weeks to a couple months.
Despite a cool and rainy day on Sunday, the Northern Rockies team reported that fuels in the timbered areas of the Grove and Line creek drainages continued to smolder. The weather is forecasted to return to the 80s this week with only slight precipitation.
There are two fire information boards located in Clark. These boards will continue to have the most current information on the fire and are located at Edelweiss Riverhouse and the Clark Community Center.
For more information, visit Custer Gallatin on Facebook at CusterGallatinNationalForest or ShoshoneNF. Additional information can also be found on the Custer Gallatin Forest website at fs.usda.gov/custergallatin.