Fire Season

Stories related to local and regional Wildfires.

Additional information is always available from InciWeb the Incident Information Website.

As firefighters scrambled to tackle a new fire in Lewis and Clark County, fire crews working the 1,060-acre Seepay west of Dixon are now starting to demobilize.

That lightning-caused fire was first reported on August 13th. It's been fought by over 200 people and is under the jurisdiction of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes.

Public information officer, Bob MacGregor, says the original plan was to have Incident Commander Diane Hutton's Type II fire management team turn the effort over to a tribal Type III team:

Josh Burnham (CC-BY)

The soaking rain that fell in parts of Western Montana dramatically cooled temperatures yesterday and came as welcome respite from the very hot and dry conditions of the past few weeks.

Fire officials, however, caution the rain by no means qualifies as a "season-ending" event.
       Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation's Jordan Koppen says the rain storm that parked over the Missoula valley yesterday was great to see:
      

Fire crews are fighting - and mopping up after, respectively - two new fires on the Lolo National Forest. Forest spokesman Boyd Hartwig  says one is called the Fire Creek Fire. That's a lightning caused fire approximately three miles northwest of the Stark Lookout and 22 miles northwest of Missoula on the Ninemile Ranger District. As of 6:30 this evening, the fire was two acres and burning in thick, downed vegetation. The location is remote and no structures are threatened. Fire behavior has been active, with single tree torching.

Fire Season Information

Jul 11, 2014
National Park Service

Here are links and phone numbers for up-to-date information about fire season in the Northern Rockies, including restrictions and closures, and local air quality.

Firewise - be proactive in making your home or landscape safer from wildfire http://www.firewise.org/wildfire-preparedness/be-firewise/home-and-landscape.aspx

This from the Montana DNRC:

The Evacuation Order for residents on Oral Zumwalt Way and throughout the Upper Trails End Road area has been lifted. Residents can now return to their homes. These roads and other roads in the area are only open to residents and firefighters.

 

New information from the DNRC (11:27):

Danny Dauterive

An evacuation has been ordered for residents living on Oral

Zumwalt Way, southeast of Miller Creek Road, east of Lolo and east of the Bitterroot River. The fire is approximately 50 acres and being pushed by gusty winds. Firefighting resources are arriving on the scene and beginning to suppress the fire. Nonresidents are asked to not use Upper or Lower Miller Creek Roads at this time so fire equipment can get in and residents on Oral Zumwalt Way can safely leave. More information will be out as soon as it is available...

Sally Mauk

Five homes have been lost in the Lolo Creek Complex fire but hundreds more were saved when firefighters managed to stop the fire's progress along Highway 12 and eastward toward Sleeman Gulch.

Thomas Kempton

Firefighters from around the country are helping fight the Lolo Creek Complex fire west of Lolo, and some, like New York City assistant fire chief Ron Spadafora are there to learn more about how fires are fought in the West.

Sally Mauk

Firefighters on the ground and from the air continue to wage what they're calling "a slugfest" on the north edge of the Lolo Creek Complex fire.

Highway 12 has been reopened to all traffic and the evacuation order for all residents along and off the highway has been lifted. Those residents however remain under an evacuation warning because of the nearby Lolo Creek Complex fire. There is a 45 mph speed limit from mile marker 20 to mile marker 32 on Highway 12 and motorists should be alert for fire traffic.

Sally Mauk

Lolo Creek Complex fire incident commander Greg Poncin says crews are making excellent progress and if that continues over the next 24 hours, Highway 12 may reopen and evacuees may be allowed to return home - but not before tomorrow at the earliest.

In an extensive interview this afternoon with News Director Sally Mauk, Poncin said up to a tenth of an inch of rain fell on parts of the fire early this morning, and crews have made great progress.

Sally Mauk

Cooler temperatures and some rain showers (!)  are helping firefighters corral the Lolo Creek Complex fire, which was 30 percent contained as of this morning. Over 650 firefighters from around the country are now working the fire that has destroyed five homes, displaced hundreds of residents, and closed Highway 12 from Lolo to Graves Creek. Here are some of the images of the fire's destruction, and the firefighters working hard to keep it from doing more.....

Sally Mauk

MTPR News Director Sally Mauk was given a tour of the Lolo Creek Complex today.  Here are  few shots she's sent back to us...

Sally Mauk

At Lolo Elementary School lower gymnasium at 8 pm.

From the Montana Department of Transportation, this is an alert for travelers on US-12 south of Missoula between Lolo and the Idaho State Line on Thursday August 22, 2013 at 11:00 am

The road is closed from Graves Creek at milepost 16 to the junction with US 93 at Lolo due to wildfires. The duration of the closure is unknown at this time.

Sally Mauk

The Type One Incident Command team now in charge of the Lolo Creek Complex fire are the best in the business - assigned to only the top priority fires in the country. Yesterday they briefed Governor Steve Bullock and Senator Jon Tester on their plan of attack, which includes contingency plans for burnouts if the fire continues its push toward homes in Sleeman Gulch and the town of Lolo. They're hoping the weather - and heavy retardant drops on the eastern flank of the fire - will make those burnouts unnecessary.

Sally Mauk

The Lolo Creek Complex fire took another explosive run Tuesday evening, growing to 8000 acres and within two and a half miles of Sleeman Creek. Dozens of residents remain evacuated, and a Type One Incident Command team took over management of the fire today. Greg Poncin is the team's leader. He says the forecast of more hot, dry temperatures and afternoon winds makes the next two to three days a critical period and "a hard-fought battle" ahead for firefighters.

Lolo Complex Fire Perimeter Map

Aug 21, 2013
Sally Mauk

The fire's eastern edge is about 2-and-a-half miles west of Sleeman Creek:

Sally Mauk

Residents of Sleeman Creek road off Highway 12 were ordered to evacuate this evening as shifting winds pushed the Lolo Creek Complex fire further east and past a "flash point" where officials deem it is unsafe for residents to remain in their homes. The fire is currently moving towards highway 12 again just west of Mill Creek. The evacuation order came right after a public meeting was held this evening to brief residents on the fire's expansion to 8000 acres.

This just released from the Lolo Creek Complex public information officers:

  Incident commanders have evaluated opening Highway 12 to escort traffic through and into the fire area and determined there are still too many hazards in the area of the Lolo Creek Complex. The decision will be evaluated again at 5pm. Safety of the public and firefighters continues to be the top priority.

4 Homes confirmed lost in the Lolo Creek Complex

Aug 20, 2013
Sally Mauk

Four homes are confirmed to have been lost in the 5000 acre Lolo Creek Complex fire.

Sally Mauk

Here are some images from the blowup of the West Fork Two and Schoolhouse fires into what's now called the "Lolo Creek Complex" burning along Highway 12 about 10 miles west of Lolo. The complex is now estimated to be 3500 acres in size, and some homes have been confirmed lost though no injuries have been reported. A Type 1 Incident Management team is en route to manage the fire.  Missoula County Disaster and Emergency Services has established a hotline for residents to get information - that number is 258-4636.

Sally Mauk

The lightning-caused Schoolhouse fire burning north and west of Lolo has grown to 250 acres. The fire is the largest of several new fires started by a lightning storm that moved through Saturday night. Smoke from this fire is visible in Missoula and it is one of two fires now burning in the Highway 12 corridor between the community of Lolo and Lolo Pass. The West Fork Two fire south of the highway is 60 acres. Information officer Cindy Super says none of the fires are currently threatening any structures.

Sally Mauk

Montana’s State Forester Monday said the state’s wildfire suppression fund still has the vast majority of the funding provided to it by the 2013 Legislature.

"I think we're doing relatively well, certainly compared to last year," State Forester Bob Harrington said.

So far in 2013, the state is sitting at a little less than $2 million dollars in estimated fire costs, out of a wildfire suppression fund of about $20 million. 810 fires have been reported so far, burning 43,000 acres.

Firefighters report significant progress on the Firestone Flats fire burning about 6 miles outside of Arlee.
       The fire started Saturday afternoon and within hours blew up into a 700 acre incident.
       Fire information officer, Cindy Super, says the crews will continue to work around the clock to build line around that fire.  If they continue to make progress and conditions hold,  pending evacuations will come to an end at 5:00 Thursday afternoon.

Youpa Stein

Fire Information – Firestone Flats

Cause: Under Investigation

Detected: July 27, 2013

Location: Approximately 5 miles east northeast of Arlee, MT.

Size: 1,388 acres on Saturday, July 27 at 7:00 PM

Jurisdiction: Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes, Lake County Current Status: Today, Sunday, July 28th, the fire is listed at 0 percent containment. Fire activity was erratic and extreme yesterday resulting in multiple evacuations.

Teams on the ground and in the air are working to beat down the as-of-yet officially unnamed Jocko Canyon area fire near Arlee. Lolo National Forest spokesman Boyd Hartwig tells us it stands at 700 acres with Lolo Hotshots on the ground. A single engine air tanker and heavy air tanker is working from above.  The Seeley Lake Ranger district will be closing the Forest Service portion of Jocko road for public safety. Scattered evacuations along Jocko Road are complete for the time being. 

Lake County Sheriff's department spokeswoman, Karen Sargent, says 18 homes have been evacuated as a result of the Jocko Canyon fire. None of them - at least to her knowledge - have been lost or damaged.  Also the fire has not yet been officially named. More updates as we get them....

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