Part of Continental Divide Trail closed by 400-acre wildfire burning 23 miles southeast of Essex
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: September 3, 2020

The Drumming Fire has continued to actively burn, fueled by the return to warm temperatures and increased winds; a small spot fire (just over 1 acre) was detected east of the fire at the Continental Divide.The fire was last mapped at 435 acres as of 0930 MDT on September 3rd. Smoke is expected to remain visible from communities along the Rocky Mountain front. For more information regarding wildfire smoke and Covid-19, please see the articles section. A smoke monitor has been placed at the Heart Butte High School to gauge fire impacts on the surrounding communities.

The Drumming Fire was detected by a Forest Health flight during the afternoon of August 26th; the fire was originally reported as two separate starts, the Drumming Fire and Drumming 2. The fires joined together during the afternoon of the 26th, growing from 3-5 acres to 30 acres. The fire is burning within a 30-year-old burn on a southwest facing ridge, 4 miles east of the Continental Divide. It is actively burning in the heavy dead and down (1,000-hour fuels) and its growth is pushed by southwest winds. There is potential for the fire to burn east-northeast into the Beaver Lake area and onto the eastern side of the divide in the Elbow Creek drainage. The 2015 Family Peak burn and 2017 Crucifixion burn provide significant barriers to this spread toward the east, see the Fire History Map in the maps section for a visual representation.

A third start in the area was detected on August 28th, the Lodgepole Creek Fire. The management plan for Lodgepole Creek will remain the same as that for the Drumming Fire, all updates on this page will apply to both fires unless explicitly stated otherwise.

Initial attack measures were deemed inadvisable based on the current values at risk, the Drumming and Lodgepole Creek Fires are not being staffed at this time. Spotted Bear Ranger District will continue to manage the fire in the coming weeks; Flathead (SBRD) and Helena-Lewis and Clark (RMRD) have sent individuals to post closure signs and make visitor contacts near affected trails on both forests. Firefighters from the Rocky Mountain Ranger District will be initiating point protection plans at Badger Cabin if necessary.

Please see the official trail closure orders and maps for specific information on the CDT reroute and other impacted trails.


Basic Information

Current as of 9/3/2020, 2:26:05 PM
Incident Type Wildfire
Cause Lightning/natural
Date of Origin Wednesday August 26th, 2020 approx. 11:00 AM
Location 23 miles SE of Essex, MT
Coordinates 48.14 latitude, -113.165 longitude

Current Situation

Total Personnel 11
Size 435 Acres
Estimated Containment Date Thursday October 15th, 2020 approx. 12:00 AM
Fuels Involved Timber (Litter and Understory)
Significant Events Moderate, creeping and smoldering, single and group tree torching.


Planned Actions Spotted Bear (SBRD) and Rocky Mountain Ranger District (RMRD) employees are posting closure information and making visitor contacts in the affected area. RMRD Firefighters are prepared to initiate point protection plans at Badger Cabin.
Projected Incident Activity Fire spread is anticipated to the east and uphill, pushed by westerly winds.

Current Weather

Weather Concerns The long term forecast shows seasonable temperatures and dry conditions for early September.

The trail closures apply to all National Forest System trails, including those segments of the Continental Divide Trail, as follows and as depicted on the attached map (Attachment A): Trail #103 is closed from Big Lodge Mountain Pass to the intersection of North Badger Creek and Kip Creek Trail #142. Trail #145 is closed from the intersection of Trail #103 at North Badger Creek to the intersection of South Badger Creek and Trail #104. Trail #147 is closed from Muskrat Pass north of Beaver Lake to the intersection of Trail #145. Trail #146 is closed from the intersection of South Badger Creek to Trail #147.