Forest fire in Swan Valley burning near highway

First major Montana wildfire of season

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A forest fire in the Seeley-Swan Valley is burning nearly 3,000 acres.

The Colt Fire is burning in dense timber with heavy dead and down fuels 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  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 continues to actively burn on all sides and remains active during the night. The fire is expected to continue to increase in size with the forecasted weather conditions. 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.

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Firefighters walk into duty at the Colt Fire near Lindbergh Lake. USFS photo.

 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.

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Map of Colt Fire as of July 23, 2023

The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office has issued an Evacuation ORDER for residences along Highway 83, between mile marker 31 (Beaver Creek Road at the intersection of Highway 83) south towards Seeley Lake to MM 27. This also includes residences in Rovero Flats.

An Evacuation WARNING has been issued for residences on Beaver Creek Road (near the summit).

An Evacuation WARNING has been issued for residences along Highway 83 beginning at MM 27, (south end of Rovero Flats), to MM 25.5 (the intersection of the West Fork of the Clearwater Road and Hwy 83). 

 An Evacuation WARNING has also been issued for the residences on the north and south ends of Lake Inez. The east side of Lake Inez, along Hwy 83, is not under any Warning or Order .

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; 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 Smart911link 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. An Evacuation Shelter in Ovando is on standby if needed.


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

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